A bill making its way through the Arkansas legislature aims to protect victims of domestic violence.
“Frequently we know that survivors of domestic violence can feel trapped,” said development director of Peace at Home Family Shelter Eva Terry. “Whether it’s because their name is on the lease with their abuser and they share that space together. Or just because the abuser knows they are located in their housing and they don’t feel safe considering to stay there.”
House Bill 1538 passed in the House Monday, March 25 and is headed to the Senate. It would allow people who can prove they are victims of domestic abuse to break leasing agreements without a penalty.
“A complaint against a partner wouldn’t be enough,” said bill sponsor, Representative Nicole Clowney of District 86. “A call to the police wouldn’t be enough. It has to have a court order with evidence of domestic abuse within the last 60 days.”
Current legislation protects survivors of domestic abuse with things like making it illegal to evict a victim for being a victim. Clowney thinks there should be more.
“It’s always been important to me that as I’m doing this job, I’m looking out for the folks that need our protection the most, that need our help the most,” Representative Clowney said. “And for me, victims of domestic violence are right at the top of that list.”
Terry said this bill could be beneficial for more than just victims.
“Anything that we can do as a community and as a state to make those barriers go away ultimately results in safer communities for all of us,” Terry said.
The bill will be discussed in the Senate next and if it’s passed, it will become law in July.