NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee lawmakers want to close a loophole that prevents tying finances to domestic abuse.
Right now, the definition of abuse is based mostly on causing physical harm. New legislation by state Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga would amend that definition to include limiting someone’s access to finances, work, or education.
“I was speaking with someone in victim services in a police department here in Tennessee who said, you know, we had an abuse victim come in and the investigators were trying to build the case. And this abuser, took her money from work, had her fired from her job, but we couldn’t use any of that, because it’s not in the code,” said Jeannine Carpenter, Director of Research and Policy for the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga. “Almost everyone I’ve spoken to on the hill, every legislator knew someone who has had something like this happen to them.”
She said a report showed 78% of people don’t recognize economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse, so they’re also working to educate communities about this kind of control.
“Economic abuse is attempting to control or manipulate a victim, usually by restricting their access to funds or their access to work, or to school,” Carpenter explained. “It can also be fraudulently using their name to access more funds and then incurring debt in the victim’s name. But right now, it’s not codified anywhere in Tennessee.”
Carpenter added that 99% of domestic abuse cases involve some sort of economic abuse, and right now it’s a highly concerning issue in Tennessee. According to the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, the state ranks 10th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women. Also, Metro Nashville Police respond to a domestic violence call every 20 minutes.
“Domestic violence numbers are staggering. And we know that the last two years have made those numbers worse,” said Carpenter. “We know anytime there are circumstances increasing stress and families, that abuse increases, when there’s stress and families and there’s never an opportunity to have space or time away from your abuser, you can’t even call for help.”
They’re hoping Senate Bill 1678 can help victims get that help before it’s too late. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee to be discussed later this month.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence there is help available 24-7. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or you can text the word “start” to 88788.