STORY BY HANNAH KEISKER
Three Drake students attended a Student Day, hosted by the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), at the Iowa State Capitol last Wednesday to speak with their congressional representatives about a bill on dating abuse.
Right now, in the state of Iowa, if an individual is in an abusive dating relationship, the abuser can only be charged with assault, which doesn’t hold the abuser as accountable for his or her actions.
This bill, called House File 15 or Senate File 138, has been active for 13 years.
Senior Evy Tews went to the Student Day and said she would recommend the experience.
“As a sociology major, it was really insightful to be able to actually go to the Capitol and see how the process works and actually be able to feel that my voice is being heard,” Tews said.
The bill passed unanimously in the Senate subcommittee on Wednesday and will be passed to a larger committee for another vote.
Katie Pypes is a senior in the social work program at the University of Iowa. She is also a policy intern with the ICADV and helped plan the lobbying day for students.
“It’s just cool to see a group of students from all across the state all coming together and saying, ‘We stand together on this issue,’” Pypes said. “I thought it was really powerful.”
Zebulon Beilke-McCallum is the director of housing and economic justice at ICADV.
“We make it easy for students to come all across the state from universities to actually meet with their legislatures to talk to them about dating violence,” Beilke-McCallum said. “That’s how we accomplish our legislative goals, is trying to connect people who are impacted by policies with the people making those policies.”
Tess Cody works with Crisis Intervention Services. She is also the campus outreach coordinator for Drake’s Violence Intervention Program.
“What we noticed is when students showed up, shockingly, people actually decided, ‘Oh, we should vote on this. We should look at this,’” Cody said.
Twenty-one states have added the term dating abuse to their domestic abuse law.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics from the census, most domestic violence or intimate partner violence victims are females between the ages of 18-24.
Cody said that under an assault charge, abusers do not have to attend a batterer’s education program and they are able to plea down their jail time.
She said that unfortunately, it’s common for offenders to only serve two days under a six month to one year sentence because they’ll get time off for good behavior.
“At that point, as a victim of domestic violence, it’s not in my interest to actually even report the crime,” Cody said. “If my abuser is going to be gone less than it takes me to find a new apartment or change the locks on my door, it’s not helpful to me. I can’t be safer. Instead, it just pisses them off and they come back madder than ever for the two days they served. It’s not worthwhile.”
Cody said some representatives don’t support the bill because they argue that there is not a clear definition of a dating relationship and they have concerns over whether this would make police officers’ jobs harder.
“I don’t think there’s anyone, man or woman, who deserves to be abused,” Pypes said. “I think about it and it’s like, ‘What if my sister was in a dating relationship, and she was being abused and the police couldn’t do anything about it?’”
Alysa Mozak, Drake’s coordinator for sexual violence response, has been taking students to the Capitol in support of the bill since 2011.
Mozak said this bill is just a simple language change.
“All it is is linguistics,” Mozak said. “It is semantics. It is just a language change in our code so that way the abuse that dating couples endure is qualified under our domestic abuse statute so they can get the same remedies of support and the abusers are held accountable.”
Mozak said it’s important to use correct language with a victim, but there is no difference between dating abuse and domestic abuse because the abuse tactics are the exact same.