Shelters, officers laud new domestic violence law

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Those who deal with domestic violence in the area are saying a new law should help many victims.
The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Haley Barbour last week, makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to prevent domestic violence victims from seeking medical treatment or emergency assistance.
The new law allows police to have one more charge on the books against an abuser, in addition to domestic violence and others. It goes into effect July 1.
Deborah Yates is the director of the Shelter and Assistance in Family Emergencies, S.A.F.E. Inc., which takes in battered women and children. She said she encounters many women who’s abuser prevented them from going to the hospital or doctor. Now, she said the law will empower those victims to get help.
“I’ve had women come in and say the phones have been ripped from the walls and cell phones broken to keep them from calling for help,” said Yates. “I’ve heard stories of the car being sabotaged so it wouldn’t work to keep them there. So holding these attackers accountable with more consequences is a good thing. This is a great law that can only help the victims.”
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said the majority of the calls his deputies respond to deal with domestic violence and more often than not, the victim has been denied the ability to get help. He said the new law strengthens his arsenal to deal with these situations.
“This gives us the tool to act when someone harasses and intimidates a victim to where they are afraid to get help for themselves,” said Johnson. “We go on calls all the time where the victim is so terrified of what’s going to happen to them because they’ve been told they would be harmed if the authorities are called. This gives us the leverage to protect the victims because these people have been victimized enough.”
Tupelo Police Capt. Chuck Bunn echoed Johnson’s point, saying the victims of domestic violence will benefit from the added help.
If convicted, the person could face a up to a $500 fine or a year in jail.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.