Making Democracy Work

Domestic Violence and Spousal Rape

OPEN ISSUE

Position LWV-TX

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - 1985, 1986, 1997, 2008

The League of Women Voters of Texas supports adequately funded state and local programs that work to eliminate the incidence of domestic violence and to alleviate its effects.

The League also supports appropriate penalties for offenders, easy access to protective orders, improved enforcement and administrative procedures for criminal justice professionals who deal with domestic violence, financial compensation to victims, and improved accessibility to services dealing with domestic violence.

The League supports state funding for seed money, capital funds, and operating costs for the following:

  • local and regional residential centers for victims
  • nonresidential support services
  • counseling programs for all affected members of the family or household
  • mandatory treatment and counseling programs for offenders to correct abusive behavior
  • mandatory specialized training for peace officers, prosecutors, judges and court personnel, and parole and probation officers
  • expanded training in police academies to deal with domestic violence
  • public information about domestic violence.

In order to provide appropriate penalties for domestic violence offenders, the League supports:

  • enhanced enforcement of present assault statutes and imposition of penalties intended by the law
  • penalties for injury to any victim of domestic violence equivalent to the penalties for injury to a child or an elderly person
  • adoption by prosecutors of a "no drop" policy so that a victim's request for dismissal will be denied if charges have already been filed
  • criminal prosecution of those who violate temporary restraining orders in domestic violence cases.

The League supports efforts to make it easy for domestic violence victims to obtain protective orders by:

  • requiring that prosecuting attorneys file all applications for protective orders upon receipt
  • providing applications and easy-to-follow instructions for filing protective orders without representation by an attorney.

To enable criminal justice professionals to deal effectively with domestic violence cases, the League supports:

  • requiring specialized training for police officers, prosecutors, judges and court personnel, and parole and probation officers
  • establishing crisis or domestic violence teams
  • mandating arrest without a warrant when there is probable cause
  • establishing and providing adequate funding for a central Protective Orders Registry.

The League supports mandatory specialized treatment and counseling of abusers to correct their behavior. To work to eliminate the incidence of domestic violence and to make services more accessible to victims, the League supports the use of financial compensation, including payment by abusers for medical and legal expenses, counseling, and living expenses incurred by victims as a result of abuse.

SPOUSAL SEXUAL ASSAULT+ 1982, 1997, 2010

The League of Women Voters of Texas supports Texas laws which provide that sexual intercourse or deviant sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the consent of that spouse is a criminal offense punishable on the same basis as rape or sexual abuse of any other person.

Coalitions and Resources

Explanation and History of LWV-TX Action

Explanation: Domestic Violence

Domestic violence was chosen by 1983 state Convention delegates for statewide study, and members adopted the first LWV-TX position regarding domestic violence in 1985. The first WUTL domestic violence position called for adequate state and local funding for programs to reduce the incidence of domestic violence and alleviate its effects. Because the League's position was limited to support of adequate funding, LWV-TX advocates were unable to act on domestic violence bills that went beyond funding during the 1985 session. To remedy that situation, a second domestic violence study focusing on the legal system was selected by delegates at Convention `85. The current, expanded domestic violence position statement was adopted in June 1986.

As a result of legislation enacted in 1995, the 1994-97 Periodic Program Review committee eliminated several provisions dealing with protective orders and added one concerning creation of, and funding for, a central Protective Orders Registry.

Convention 2006 recommended that the position should not read "reduce" domestic violence, but to "eliminate" it. Revised wording was put forward as an item of concurrence in Program Planning, fall 2007, agreed to unanimously, and adopted by the board in January, 2008.

History: Domestic Violence

1987-1989: In the 1987 and 1989 legislative sessions, LWV-TX supported successful bills to reduce the cost and improve the accessibility of protective orders to victims of family violence and to tighten their enforcement. In the 1989 session, League efforts included strong support for a successful omnibus protective order bill and a bill providing for the incremental upgrading of offense classification and punishment for subsequently occurring acts of domestic violence.

Funding was secured with passage of Lt. Governor Hobby's Anti-Crime Plan.

1991-1993: LWV-TX supported its domestic violence position through membership in the Texas Council on Family Violence. An important achievement of the 1993 session was passage of the so-called "stalking" bill which provides a means for victims to report an individual's harassment before actually experiencing physical injury, thus giving the law enforcement system the ability to protect potential victims of domestic violence.

1995: With League support, the 74th session of the Texas legislature amended the Code of Penal Procedure to create a legal exception to the spousal adverse testimony privilege. The Senate Interim Committee on Domestic Violence had strongly recommended creation of the exception to prevent perpetrators of family violence from hiding behind the shield of "spousal privilege," thus escaping successful prosecution and conviction. Another significant measure enacted during this session created a statewide central registry for protective orders through the Texas Department of Public Safety.

1997: A strengthened anti-stalking bill was passed early in the session, followed by several proactive bills to assist survivors of domestic violence. One measure authorizes the Department of Human Services to develop procedures to assist family violence survivors who are welfare recipients, while another bill will use a small increase in court-filing fees to provide basic legal services to the indigent, many of whom are battered women and children. Two bills that would have made it more difficult for women to escape abusive marriages were defeated. A bill that would have authorized the creation and distribution to all public schools of an anti-violence curriculum did not get out of committee.

1999: Advocates scored significant victories during the 76th Legislature. There were significant increases in appropriations to the Department of Human Services Family Violence Program and to Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs. Legislation passed making it more difficult for batterers to obtain custody and/or visitation of children.

2001: The League supported a bill, signed by the governor, which provides that as of September 1, it is illegal in Texas for those under final protective order for family violence and those convicted of family violence crimes to possess guns.

Explanation and History: Spousal Sexual Assault

A study of Spousal Rape was adopted in 1981 and the position was adopted in 1982. The Spousal Rape position was studied by the 1995-97 Periodic Program Review Committee, which modified the original position to reflect a law passed in 1993 that eliminated marital rape exemptions. Although the original position has been achieved, it was retained to allow the League to advocate against possible future attempts to reinstate the old law. Retaining the position also allows local Leagues to support their police departments' and district attorneys' efforts to prosecute accused rapists diligently, regardless of the marital status of the parties. The 2003 Convention requested LWV-TX develop a publication with updated information on this position. At Convention 2010, delegates voted to change the name to Spousal Sexual Assault to conform to language in the current criminal code and statutes.

1980's: LWV-TX supported successful bills making sexual assault of a spouse illegal where the married persons lived apart or had filed for divorce. New laws were enacted, defining crimes of sexual assault committed by a spouse. These measures required a showing of bodily injury or threat of bodily injury for criminal prosecution against a spouse.

1993: The 73rd session of the Texas legislature passed a law mandating that all sexual assault victims be treated equally and eliminating all marital rape exemptions.

2004: Written information for members about the League's positions on spousal rape and the status of current law regarding the subject appeared in the Spring 2004 Texas Voter.