BOSTON — The state Senate has advanced legislation aimed at adding workplace and other protections to victims of domestic violence, while approving another bill explicitly extending parental leave rights to fathers as well as mothers.
The domestic violence bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 15 days of leave per year for a victimized employee to take time to deal with court, housing, health or other issues related to the abuse.
Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of an “accord and satisfaction” action in domestic violence cases. Those motions are generally used between two parties in a fight, where the aggressor compensates the victim, and in domestic violence cases defense attorneys can pressure victims into such agreements, said Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, the Newton Democrat who sponsored the legislation.
“Sometimes, the victim being a victim is afraid to sign that, and this would remove that ability from the area of domestic abuse,” Creem told the News Service. She said the legislation would not prohibit victims from deciding against cooperating with the prosecution. Accord and satisfaction agreements allow the judge to dismiss the case over the prosecutor’s objections.
“They could still say they don’t want to go forward, and then it would be up to the DA what they want to do, but they can’t use this technical term that’s been so successfully used in criminal cases,” Creem said. She said without that option for the defense, advocates believe more victims will go forward with cases.
The Senate included other domestic violence items to the bill, notably a proposal from state Senate Minority Leader and Gloucester Republican Bruce Tarr that would prohibit courts from granting visitation rights to a parent who conceived the child through rape.
Tarr withdrew another amendment that would have directed authorities to collaborate with neighboring states on a multi-state compact for restraining orders.
According to Tarr and other Senate leaders, current law does not include a first offense for a charge of domestic assault and battery, making it “unenforceable.” The bill creates a first offense.
The bill also boosts the penalties for subsequent violations of a restraining order and requires people who have been convicted of domestic violence to complete a batterer’s intervention program and pay a $300 fine when enrolling in such a program.
“Victims of domestic violence continue to face barriers in their recovery and protecting themselves from future attacks, and we have an obligation to change that,” Senate President Therese Murray, a Plymouth Democrat, said in a prepared statement. “This bill will increase the rights and protections of victims, and we hope to see this bill taken up by the House in a timely manner.”