Advocates hope new legislation will curb domestic violence - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Advocates hope new legislation will curb domestic violence

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Advocates in central Wisconsin say domestic violence is a growing problem.

"It's happening every day, it's going through our court systems, it's going through our agency for those who don't want to report, they're too afraid to report," said The Women's Community Executive Director, Jane Graham-Jennings.

Graham-Jennings said she's in favor of two new bills moving forward in the state legislature.

One of the bills requires police officers to file reports about all domestic abuse calls. The other expands the amount of evidence allowed in court.

Both recently passed in special committees.

"When you get in front of jurors who don't get to see the whole history, that can make quite a bit of difference, and they see the incident and think, maybe it's not so bad, when you can bring a history in, you can say look at this pattern of behavior," said Graham-Jennings.

But some say allowing more evidence from a suspect's past can be dangerous because it could allow unproven allegations in court.

Local police say that won't happen.

At the Wausau Police Department, officials said they already take notes when responding to domestic violence calls. They said they've been doing it for more than five years and it's proven to be a big help.

"They're able to look back at that call history at that address, read the other officer's comments, get a better idea of what's been going on historically at that location," said Wausau Police Captain Bryan Hilts.

Hilts said the number of domestic abuse calls in Wausau is going up.

In 2012, the department reported about 2,000 cases, roughly 200 more than 2011.

"Domestic disturbance calls tend to be higher risk calls for officers to respond to. There tend to be higher levels of violence involved, obviously the emotions are running very high," said Capt. Hilts.

But Graham-Jennings said the increase in calls isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"It means that our community response is better, the victims feel safer, they feel like there's going to be some accountability and they're going to be able to help stop the behavior," said Graham-Jennings.

She hopes new legislation will also help raise awareness.

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