Gaining unanimous support in their first committee hearing, Senate Bill 68 and Senate Bill 70 will enhance protections for victims of domestic violence as well as staff and volunteers of domestic violence shelters.
The Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs today unanimously approved two bills, by Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami), aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence as well as the employees and volunteers of domestic violence shelters.
Senate Bill 70 provides a new criminal offense to further protect the locations of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) certified domestic violence centers. Senate Bill 68 exempts from public record the personal information and addresses of DCF domestic violence shelter’s current or former staff, volunteers, and their families.
“When victims of domestic violence seek refuge it is imperative that, for their safety, their location remains confidential,” Senator Garcia said. “We must do everything in our power to protect these survivors from their abusers. I am proud to sponsor legislation that heightens protections for survivors of domestic abuse as well as the volunteers, staff, and their families, who serve this vulnerable population.”
“Survivors of domestic violence are turning to domestic violence centers during their hour of need and this legislation will help us to better provide them with necessary services,” said Shannon Sokolowski, Executive Director of the Dawn Center, a certified domestic and sexual violence center. “The advocates who work in these centers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their own safety or their families’ safety while doing the important work that they do. We appreciate Senator Garcia for helping us close this gap and give us the tools to keep our survivors and advocates safe.”
Senate Bill 70 makes it a first degree misdemeanor, or a felony upon a second or subsequent conviction, for any person to maliciously publish, disseminate, or disclose any descriptive information or image that may identify the location of a certified domestic violence center.
Senate Bill 68 exempts certain information from public records for the current or former staff and volunteers of domestic violence centers certified by the DCF including: home addresses, telephone numbers, photographs, and dates of birth of such personnel and their families.
Florida has 41 DCF certified domestic violence centers that provide crisis intervention and support services to adult victims of domestic violence and their children free of charge. These centers operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provide services such as emergency shelter, crisis and information hotline, safety planning, counseling, education for community awareness, and training for law enforcement and other professionals. Many also provide legal and court advocacy, transportation, relocation assistance, economic empowerment classes, transitional housing, daycare, outreach services, rape crisis intervention, and prevention programs in local schools.
For more information, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.