Legislators Need To Hold Abusers Accountable For Their Actions

The state Assembly missed a golden opportunity to pass legislation that could give people pause during incidents where children are present.

Legislators unanimously passed a bill earlier this year to expand the definition of a child victim for the purposes of eligibility for funding through the state Crime Victims Fund.

Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, tried to add an amendment to the legislation to protect children who are witnesses or victims of crime by creating a Class E felony crime for those found guilty of a domestic violence crime in the presence of a child who is age 15 or younger. Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, supported Giglio’s effort, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Giglio’s proposed amendment was defeated on the Assembly floor.

It may have been a stretch to argue that legislation to create a greater penalty for those who commit domestic violence crimes in the presence of a child should be tacked on to legislation that expands the definition of child victims in order to pay for treatment costs. Yet, Giglio had to make an attempt when an opportunity presented itself. The Gowanda Republican presented similar legislation during the 2017-18 legislative session and earlier this year. Neither proposal has advanced out of committee.

That’s unfortunate. Twenty-four states and Puerto Rico have enacted laws addressing domestic violence committed in front of children. Existing law does not provide much of a deterrent, so perhaps making the offense a felony charge would make people think twice before allowing incidents to escalate when children are present.

Legislators were right to do what they can legally to make as many childhood victims of domestic violence eligible for state funding as possible. Legislators missed the boat, however, when it comes to holding abusers accountable for their actions. Giglio’s bill should receive a fair airing next year when the state Legislature returns to session.