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Bill would alter assult statute

December 09, 1999
By: Hollie Maloney
State Capital Bureau

Edited by PRB

JEFFERSON CITY - Columbia's Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson said the committee on domestic violence that she co-chairs will propose legislation that to create a separate section for domestic violence under the assault statute.

"It's not that it's a new crime. It's just being singled out as a crime within the assault statute," she said.

Under current law, the actions of domestic violence are reported as assaults, Wilson said. There is no way to track domestic violence, she said, because assault also includes other things, such as bar fights. She said this would enable people to know how much domestic violence does occur.

"We know what characterizes domestic violence is a pattern of power and control and that is what makes it different from other assaults," she said.

Along with specifically naming domestic violence under the assault statute, she said most of the legislation will tighten existing law regarding domestic violence and make Missouri laws conform better to federal laws and standards.

Pat Glasier is the project director of The Shelter in Columbia, which offers housing and counseling for people involved in domestic violence. She said she wants domestic violence to be identified as a separate crime or as domestic violence assault.

"Domestic violence needs to be recognized and treated as a crime because it is. It's a crime that cost everyone in the state of Missouri millions of dollars."

The committee was established to do study domestic violence.

"I think it is an issue that has been overlooked," said Co-Chair Bill Luetkenhaus, D-Josephville. "This is the first major effort in my seven years that we (the legislature) are taking to address domestic violence."

Wilson recounted testimony about a young women who said it was foreign for her to hear that people who love don't always hit.

"There are some people who still don't know it's socially unacceptable," Wilson said.

The committee also wants to increase funding for services dealing with domestic violence, Luetkenhaus said. According to statistics from the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at least 5,332 women and children were turned away in 1998 because shelters were full.

Colleen Coble, director of the coalition, said groups such as health care providers and schools are talking more to people in those situations about shelters and other services available. The funding, however, doesn't compensate for the new referrals, she said.

Glasier agreed funding is lacking.

"We need more money for housing, food, medications, and clothes; all the necessities that women and children without a home need," she said.

Coble said that funding needs to go to the battered women and children as well as other needs.

"If there is 1.6 million spent on computer or other research equipment, then there needs to be the same level of support to keep real live citizens safe," she said.