Katherine Verano is wrestling with an 830% increase in costs compared with last year for hoteling victims of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. After a quiet period during the first months of the pandemic, when much of the state was locked down, domestic violence shelters started running at about 150% capacity during the summer months. When providers ran out of room for social distancing, clients had to be placed in hotels and fed. It’s been a complex time, said Verano, the executive director of Safe Futures, a New London-based nonprofit dedicated to providing counseling, services and shelter to victims of domestic violence in 21 southeastern towns. Safe Futures’ budget for hoteling clients has increased steadily this year.
Much has been made of the #MeToo movement—and rightfully so—but an important discussion central to the movement has been sidelined. Again. This time, the safety of women has been subsumed in a strange debate about security at our country’s southern border. Amid unpaid furloughs, federal employees who are working without pay, and shuttered federal departments sits the expired Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA. VAWA funding supports a variety of initiatives in Connecticut, said Liza Andrews, Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence director of public policy and communications.
While the Trump administration seeks to dismantle any and all things Obamacare, Connecticut legislators, in the waning days of this year’s legislative session, passed a bill that protects important health benefits that are part of the 2010 reform package. Legislators also passed a law that seeks to reduce the times police officers arrest both the victim and the aggressor on domestic violence calls, or so-called “dual arrests.” And they, in an attempt to close the gender wage gap, passed a bill that prevents potential employers from asking job applicants about salary history. About that last one, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, “This inequity is perpetuated by the practice of asking for salary history during the hiring process, which can disproportionately ensure that women who were underpaid at their first job continue to be underpaid throughout their careers, creating a cycle of poverty and causing real harm to families.”
But let’s give an honest grade for what happened—and what didn’t happen—in the session that ended at midnight May 9. Connecticut legislators’ effort was a solid C for what they could do for families—or, if we’re feeling generous, maybe a C+. Too many pieces of legislations that could have made a big difference in a small state were left on the table, died in committee, or never got traction.
In 2014, Lori Jackson Gellatly was shot and killed by her estranged husband, after she had moved from the family’s home with the couple’s twin toddlers to her mother’s house in Oxford. Lori Gellatly had filed for and obtained a temporary restraining order because she said her husband was abusive. She was just a day shy of a hearing for a permanent order against her husband, who also seriously wounded Lori Gellatly’s mother. Lori Gellatly’s husband (I am tired of naming shooters) has since pleaded guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder, and he’s due back in court in November for what could be a 45-year sentence. Lori Gellatly died during what advocates and researchers say is a particularly vulnerable time, when an accused offender could react violently to being subject to a temporary restraining order.