Bills propose tougher time for domestic violence in front on children

ANNAPOLIS - Ronnesha Simms was stabbed repeatedly by the father of her children in September.  The 2 year old shares her memories with family. 

"She can tell you how she saw how her daddy cut her mommy," said Bonita Simms, Ronnesha’s aunt.    

Annapolis police shot and killed William Brown.  Now, Ronnesha's family is sharing the impact of domestic violence with lawmakers.

Legislators have introduced several bills to the House Judiciary Committee.  Similar legislation failed for eight consecutive years, but supporters say it's worth another try.

"A child who has witnessed domestic violence or a child who has witnessed a homicide is just as impacted and begins to be just as traumatized as a child who has been sexually abused themselves," said Adam Rosenberg, executive director, Baltimore Child Abuse Center.             

Ronnesha's family is helping her two daughters fight that trauma while lawmakers tweaked some of the language that allowed bills to fail in the senate.

"This bill sends a strong, unequivocal message to our judges and prosecutors that committing an act of violence in front of a minor child is a serious and aggravating event," said Del. Luiz Simmons, (D-Montgomery County). 

Two Democratic candidates for governor, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler, are both advocates for similar bills.  In his testimony, at least Gansler said it doesn’t matter who takes the credit. 

"Every study has shown that children who are present during these domestic violence cases are three times more likely to be victims or to be aggressors themselves," said Gansler.    

"The legislation that we are supporting may not end domestic violence by themselves but I think it will keep us on that path that we have been on to reduce it and one day end domestic violence," said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, (D) Maryland.    

Brown also supports bills that would  loosen the restrictions for placing a protective order.  For Ronnesha's family, tougher time could have spared them the pain.

"I actually pat myself on the back when I make it through the day without crying," said Remeico Green, Ronnesha’s sister.

A child would not have to testify in front of a jury if the bills pass.

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