Lawmakers and advocates work for a safer West Virginia for Domestic Abuse Survivors

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK)- On Saturday hundreds of women will come together for Girls Night Out, all to try and put an end to domestic violence. For years though, lawmakers and advocates have also been working to help these survivors and victims by strengthening laws throughout the state.

“When these groups come to the Capitol and tell you their stories. I mean these aren’t just people promoting legislation these people have been through it,” said Del. Andrew Byrd, (D) Kanawha.

Most recently, in 2016 HB 4362 making strangulation a felony crime was signed into law. This happened after domestic violence advocates took statistics to lawmakers showing that if someone is strangled, that person is seven times more likely to be killed later on by their attacker.

“It’s very important that there’s consequences of this because you should never put your hands on anyone, you should never be violent to where anybody should have a physical altercation,” said Melissa Pemberton, a domestic abuse survivor.

The law stated that any person who strangles another person without consent and causes bodily injury or loss of consciousness can be charged with a felony offense.

Three years later though, advocates say there is still work to be done on this issue impacting domestic abuse victims.

“I would love to see some of the charges taken more seriously by the judicial system. Strangulation is a felony in the state of West Virginia. I would like to see where that’s really taken seriously and not plead down,” said Julie Haden, Program Coordinator, YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program.

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