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Victims of Domestic Violence Will Have a New Resource in Florida

Published in Blog on June 13, 2024 by Susan Quinn

When a woman is a victim of domestic violence, she is often reluctant to take the legal recourse available to her. How is domestic violence defined?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors, violence, or threats of violence, that one person uses to establish power and control over a current or former intimate partner. It is not a disagreement, a marital spat, or an anger management problem. Domestic violence is abusive, disrespectful, and dangerous and may include abuse that is physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, or economic. The use of threats, intimidation, isolation, pet abuse, and using children as pawns are also examples of domestic violence.

Two Florida legislators, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, D-Davie, and Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, filed SB 610 the "Gabby Petito Act" to address this issue:

The initiative was brought forward by Gabby's father, Joseph Petito, of Vero Beach. The bill mandates law-enforcement officers conduct lethality assessments on survivors and enhances collaborations between advocates and law-enforcement agencies in Florida, according to a news release.

Gabby Petito was a 22-year old vlogger who traveled across the country and was killed by her fiancee in 2021.

What, and how helpful, are the lethality assessments? Here is one provided by the National Institute of Justice. (It isn’t clear at this time if this is the model Florida will use.):

Near the end of an investigation at an IPV [intimate partner violence] incident scene, the police officer will administer a brief risk assessment screen to the victim-survivor.

This ‘Lethality Screen’ is an 11-item questionnaire that assesses the victim-survivor's level of risk for being killed by the person committing the IPV offense.

It is suggested that the officer use the Lethality Screen when a past or current intimate partner relationship is involved and there is a "manifestation of danger" by evidence of at least one of the following:

(1) The officer believes that an assault or other violent act has occurred, whether or not there was probable cause for arrest,

(2) the officer is concerned for the victim-survivor's safety once they leave the incident scene,

(3) the officer is responding to a domestic violence call from a victim-survivor or at a location where IPV has occurred in the past, or

(4) the officer has a gut feeling that the victim-survivor is in danger.

Even if a woman refuses to press charges, the law enforcement officer can document her level of risk if she remains in the relationship. He may also make calls to notify other agencies of the situation.

Too often, a woman may downplay domestic violence, or is afraid that if she reports the abuser, he/she will take retribution against her. She may also fear that the outcome of reporting the person will be that she will be alone or economically destitute. And if there are children involved, her decision to act may seem even more complicated.

Some organizations provide comprehensive services, and can adjust their assistance to the need of the individual or the law enforcement agency. Below are examples of these services from the Florida Department of Children and Families:

  • 24-Hour Hotline
  • Temporary Emergency Shelter
  • Safety Planning
  • Information and Referrals
  • Counseling and Case Management
  • Nonresidential Outreach Services
  • Training for Law Enforcement Personnel
  • Needs Assessments and Referrals for Resident Children
  • Educational Services for Community Awareness Related to domestic violence and Available Services/Resources for Survivors

At Convention of States, we want to educate all of our citizens to make use of the services at the state level that will provide them with safety, empowerment and the opportunity for self-sufficiency. If we tell others about these resources, too, we may be saving lives. We can also be helpful by tracking and alerting citizens to any new laws that are passed.


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