Thursday, June 14, 2012

ARTICLE: DaSilva's strangulation legislation approved by General Assembly

PROVIDENCE – The General Assembly has passed legislation that makes domestic assault by strangulation a felony punishable by as many as 10 years of imprisonment. The legislation has been transmitted to the governor’s office for his consideration.

“As a police officer, I saw firsthand how strangulation can lead to more violence, and even death,” said Rep. Roberto DaSilva, a Democrat serving District 63 in East Providence and Pawtucket and prime sponsor of the House bill. “I’m proud that I could make a difference on this issue in my capacity as a legislator. I think Rhode Island has taken the right step in elevating the consequences to the severity of this crime.”

Most recent figures show more than 10 percent of all homicide deaths among women in the United States are due to strangulation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.5 percent of all violence-related homicides, involving both men and women, in 2007 were caused by strangulation. Further, there are at least 30 states in the nation, including New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, which have passed similar legislation.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence 2011 annual report points out that 9,694 domestic violence victims used services that year. From 2010 to 2011, the state saw its highest number of domestic violence deaths since the coalition first began keeping records in the 1980s. The coalition strongly supported the legislation.

Sen. Frank DeVall Jr., a Democrat in District 18, East Providence, sponsored the Senate version of the bill, noting that more than half of the nation has similar laws in place regarding strangulation.

“A similar bill was introduced last year, but we needed to tighten the language a little bit,” he said. “This is a good piece of legislation. We’re trying to prevent what tends to be an escalation of violence in these cases – strangulation can oftentimes lead to death. With harsher penalties, we hope there are fewer people who fall into that tragic category.”

Co-sponsors of the House legislation are Representatives Elaine Coderre, District 60, Pawtucket, Deborah Ruggiero, District 74, Jamestown and Middletown, Donna Walsh, Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, and Raymond Johnston Jr., District 61, Pawtucket.

Co-sponsors of the Senate legislation include Senators Elizabeth A. Crowley, District 16, Central Falls, Cumberland, Pawtucket, and John Tassoni Jr., District 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield.

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