Senator Antonio Discusses Importance of Supporting Domestic Violence Survivors
Last week, I was honored to participate in Leadership Ohio’s panel on "Ending Violence Against Women & Girls." In Ohio, 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime, but unfortunately, only one third of survivors will come forward and seek justice. Additionally, more than 1 in 3 women in the United States will experience physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. We are likely to see this increase for 2020. According to Human Rights Watch: crises & especially lockdowns can trigger a greater incidence of domestic violence due to increased stress, cramped and difficult living conditions, and breakdowns in community support systems and services. In fact, in our own community, calls to the Domestic Violence and Children Advocacy Center in Cuyahoga County’s hotline increased by 40% during Covid.
Fighting for survivors is essential and passing state legislation is an important piece to supporting them. This General Assembly, I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Columbus) to reclassify strangulation as a felony (SB 146), and SB 43 which would increase state funding to DV programs and include DV convictions and protection orders as a red flag component in firearm legislation. According to the Strangulation Training Institute, women who have been strangled by their partners are 750% more likely to be murdered than domestic violence victims who have not experienced strangulation. I also introduced SB 162 which would eliminate both the statute of limitations and the spousal exemptions for rape or sexual battery.
Domestic Violence protections cannot stop at the state level. President-Elect Joe Biden was instrumental in passing the Violence Against Women Act to support and protect survivors. Unfortunately, the VAWA has yet to be re-authorized by Congress in recent years. Additionally, we need to strengthen the definition of domestic violence, which was severely limited by the Department of Justice under the current Administration. Beyond legislation, we still have to do the work to open people’s minds and shift how they think about survivors and perpetrators. Culturally, mass media and social media have desensitized the public’s perception of violence, creating a pseudo-acceptance of said violence.
The burden of combatting domestic violence should not and cannot be placed solely on survivors. It is on each of us to support them and seek further protections for people in these dangerous situations. If you, or someone you know, find yourself in such a relationship or situation, I highly encourage taking advantage of the resources within our community, including Cleveland’s Rape Crisis Center.
State Senator Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) is honored to be serving in her first elected term in the Ohio Senate District 23, following 8 years of service in the Ohio House of Representatives, 13th House District with 5 of those years serving in leadership as Minority Whip. Antonio has also served as Lakewood City Councilmember, Executive Director of an outpatient drug/alcohol treatment program for women and teacher for children with special needs.
Antonio serves as Highest Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Transportation and Joint Medicaid Oversight Committees. She also serves on the Finance Subcommittee on Health, and Ways and Means Committees. She is also a member of the Ohio House Democratic Women's Caucus—previously serving as chair—and is the State Director for the Women Legislators’ Lobby.
She has been a dedicated champion of workers’ rights, high-quality education, our local governments, equal rights for women and the LGBT community, healthcare for all and fighting the opioid crisis.
Antonio is recognized as a leader who reaches across the aisle to get things done. As a result, she has worked to pass legislation such as Ohio’s historic adoption open records law (SB 23/HB 61) and a step therapy reform law (SB 265/HB 72). During each of her four terms in office, Antonio has introduced the Ohio Fairness Act (now SB11), to provide civil rights protections for members of the LGBT community, as well as an end to Ohio’s use of the death penalty and an array of other bills focused on improving the lives of all Ohioans. Antonio continues to be an established expert in health policy in the General Assembly.
The first in her family to graduate from college, she holds both MPA and B.S.Ed. Degrees from Cleveland State University and was named a CSU Distinguished Alumni in 2013. She is also an alumnus and Bohnett fellow of the Kennedy School Harvard Leadership Program (2011).
Daughters Ariel and Stacey have made Antonio and wife Jean Kosmac, very proud as the girls engage in their adult life journeys.