Charlie Baker gathers abuse survivors to chart path after Judiciary slight

Gov. Charlie Baker joined victims of domestic violence at the State House Monday to mourn the death of a bill which they say could have prevented what happened to them from happening to others.

“We talk about why this legislation is important to those who have the courage to come forward,” Baker said. “The thing I keep wondering about is how many people don’t come forward because we don’t have these protections in place.”

The bill, called “An Act to Protect Victims of Crimes and the Public,” aims to better survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, who under current law may well fear their abusers actions before trial.

The proposal would allow a court to hold certain suspects without bail or release conditions for up to 120 days before a trial if “clear and convincing evidence that no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of others or the community,” according to the text of the bill.

The Judiciary Committee, on Friday, sent the bill to study, a position from which most legislation never returns for a vote. Baker slammed the move as “incomprehensible” and an insult to the survivors of abuse.

“How many people suffer in silence, how many people choose to run – who knows where – because they are afraid the commonwealth won’t be on their side, because we haven’t been on the side of others who have chosen to come forward,” Baker said Monday. “Honestly this isn’t brain surgery.”

Alyson Sullivan is Abington’s Representative in the Legislature and a member of the judiciary committee which voted to study the bill. She’s also a survivor of abuse, she said.

“I’m alive, I have my voice. But there are so many others that are no longer with us that no longer have a voice. Their lives did matter and they do matter,” she said abuse survivors. “I am heartbroken to see that the Judiciary sent this bill to a study after all the effort of all of you so bravely coming forward. It is not easy telling our stories.”

Opponents have argued rules expanding law enforcement’s ability to detain people without a trial may exacerbate racial disparities or be in violation of the Fourth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Baker told survivors that when he held one of the first roundtables with them, in Plymouth last December, that their stories made him feel incompetent at his own ability to push the bill past the finish line despite, at that point, nearly four years of effort since originally filing legislation.

Baker has less than six months in office left to get it done; he is not seeking a third term.

On Monday he told survivors he would continue pushing.

“We’re going to continue to fight for this for as long as we possibly can,” he said

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