The Mississippi legislature has killed a bill that would have made domestic abuse grounds for divorce, and victims’ advocates claims that the action puts “thousands” of women – and men – at risk of being forced to stay in abusive marriages.
As The Guardian reports, Senator Sally Doty, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said the bill was doing just fine in the Mississippi House of Representatives and appeared poised to become law. That is, until some of Doty’s colleagues attached an amendment to the bill. That amendment allowed a divorce to be granted after a two-year separation; and that amendment, says Doty, is what killed the bill.
“That additional grounds is actually what ended up killing the bill. I think certainly all of my colleagues in the senate understand the seriousness of domestic violence.”
— SuperTalk MS (@supertalk) February 24, 2016
So, what is objectionable about a law that makes domestic violence grounds for divorce or grants a divorce after a two-year separation? According to Lorine Cady, founder of the House of Grace, a shelter for domestic violence victims in Southaven, Mississippi, Magnolia State lawmakers don’t want to run afoul of The Bible.
The Old Testament allows abandonment of a spouse as grounds for divorce, and apparently, some legislatures in Mississippi feel the need to be even more strict than The Bible when it comes preserving marriage in their state.
“I think people here tend to lean on The Bible in their decision-making about divorce. They’re not considering what it says about helping women.”
Then, with a sarcastic laugh, Cady said that Mississippi lawmakers relying on The Bible for passing legislation occurs too frequently.
“It wouldn’t be the first time. I will pray for them.”
Cady maintains that Mississippi’s failure to act on the domestic violence bill means that thousands of men and women across the state are now at risk of domestic violence and must remain in abusive marriages.
“We have an epidemic here. I think domestic abuse should be at the very top of the list of reasons for divorce.”
wow, talk about a powerful campaign. domestic violence. pic.twitter.com/JpVsRF9G50
— femalenomads (@femalenomads) April 27, 2016
Just how widespread is the problem of domestic violence? According to statistics from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men will at some point in their lives be a victim of violence from a spouse or intimate partner.
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And in Mississippi, the problem of domestic violence is particularly severe. On one day alone – September 14, 2014 – 393 people, half of them children, sought refuge in domestic violence shelters across Mississippi.
Fortunately, there are some signs of improvement. Since the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office created the Domestic Violence Unit a few years ago, Mississippi has dropped from fifth-highest in the nation in terms of number of women killed by their husbands to 34th.
Still, getting a divorce in Mississippi isn’t easy, even if your partner is abusive. State law allows for a divorce in the case of “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment,” which Cady says is hard to prove in court.
“People want to be honest in court. They want to cite the true grounds: domestic abuse.”
Cody says she intends to re-introduce her bill during the next legislative session next year, this time with stricter language about how it can and cannot be amended.
Do you think domestic violence should be grounds for divorce?
[Image via Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia]