October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a time that is recognized across the country to rally around DV survivors, highlight their struggles, speak out against the incredible damage this crime has on our society, families, survivors, and children.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that every 9 seconds a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other. Men are not immune to domestic violence. In fact, 1 in 4 men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
We know many law enforcement members across our state have dedicated their careers to serving Iowa’s communities and victims of crime. As they protect small towns, rural communities, entire counties, large cities and everything in between, it’s not uncommon that they get to know those who become victims of crime on a personal level. Our organization understands that oftentimes members of the law enforcement community do more than simply investigate crimes; they are there for the victims and families, and even end up being their voice when they are
not in a position to be heard.
Written by: Ashley Hinson and Marti Anderson
A brave woman stood before a crowd at the Iowa Capitol recently. Her hands slightly shaking, she showed no fear as she testified before a legislative subcommittee recounting the night she was viciously assaulted by someone she loved, someone she trusted.
Marsy’s Law Protects Victims’ Safety and the Criminal Process
In Iowa, the public is well aware that defendants are typically arrested and then bond right out of jail within a day. Iowa’s bond rules are laid out in Iowa Code § 811.2. The two main considerations for the Court to weigh in setting bond are 1) what conditions of release will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance and 2) the safety of another person or persons. Unfortunately, our courts typically only weigh the first consideration without much regard for the second. Marsy’s Law will change that.
The Court, by the letter of the law, should be taking the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the defendant’s record of convictions, and any attempts by the defendant to avoid prosecution through flight or illegal actions. See Iowa Code § 811.2(2). Unfortunately, when prosecutors argue the circumstances of the offense charged, many judges will refuse to hear the argument by claiming the circumstances are not yet proven. Further, some judges have even refused to listen to prosecutors’ concerns that defense counsel and the defendant were attempting to push a victim to not correspond with the County Attorney’s Office. When the circumstances of an offense and improper attempts by a defendant to avoid prosecution will not be taken into consideration when setting bond, this is how defendants receive low bonds so consistently.
Further, since our Constitution only deals with a defendant’s rights, our courts rarely take the defendant’s danger to the community as seriously as they should. Instead, they focus on the defendant’s financial circumstances and little else.
Marsy’s Law will require that judges take crime victims’ safety into consideration when setting bail for defendants. A failure to do so would violate the Iowa Constitution if Marsy’s Law is passed. To protect victims from further victimization, we need this change. Marsy’s Law will require that a judge listen to a victim when determining bond.
Wapello County Attorney
Marsy's Law for Iowa Supporter
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. There are staggering facts about suicide that highlight how this is something that can effect anyone, at any time. While we raise awareness of suicide this month, we also want to point those who may be hurting to helpful resources. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can chat online.
For those who are looking to help someone who is struggling, there is help available as well. We can all prevent suicide by watching for warning signs, starting a conversation and knowing when to get help.
Victims who have sustained trauma or abuse are certainly more at risk and should be aware of where to turn if they need to. In Iowa specifically, you can dial 2-1-1 to be connected to several resources including support and mental health resources.