Critics say new marriage bill puts abused women in danger - WNCT

Critics say new marriage bill puts abused women in danger

Critics say new marriage bill puts abused women in danger

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Domestic violence killed 122 people last year in North Carolina.

That number has been steadily on the rise for the past four years, according to statistics just released from state Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Of the 122 victims in 2012, 78 were women and 44 were men. The three counties with the largest populations - Wake, Mecklenburg and Guilford - reported the highest number of murders.

In Eastern North Carolina, Pitt County had the highest with three domestic violence murders last year. Across the East, the total number reached 20.

And now critics of a new bill making its way through our state legislature say it'll only put abused women in more danger.

It's called the "Healthy Marriage Act" and it would make it tougher for you to divorce by requiring a two-year waiting period instead of one year before the split is final.

Plus, couples would have to attend counseling sessions that focus on communication skills and conflict resolution. And they would not be required to live separately during those two years. Couples with children would also have to take a course about how the divorce will affect their kids.

Republican state Senator Austin Allran is the bill's primary sponsor. He says he believes it will cut the state's divorce rate - which ranks 19th nationwide.

Laura King, a domestic violence survivor, says she understands Allran's motivation, but says it's shocking there's no exception in the bill for cases of domestic violence or abuse.

"I think it's a giant step backward," King says. "It goes back to a time when domestic violence was a family matter and it isn't. It's a legal matter. A crime is being committed."

Licensed marriage and family therapist Tammy Whitten agrees the bill would put abused women at risk.

"It takes women an average of nine times to leave before they finally leave someone who's beaten them and abused them," Whitten says. "So if they have nine times of trying to, and then we've got a two-year waiting period, the chances of her being harmed or seriously injured or even killed have just skyrocketed."

9 On Your Side called Senator Allran several times Wednesday to ask about the absence of a domestic violence exception.

He did not return our calls. But he told our Raleigh CBS affiliate, WRAL, last week he is open to adding an exception to the bill before its first hearing in committee.

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