Last month, Gwyn Kaitis, executive director the Help End Abuse for Life and The Nest domestic violence shelter, visited Santa Fe with her Leadership Lincoln class during the legislative session.
“We traveled to Santa Fe to learn about the State Capitol, to become familiar with the legislative process, and to meet people in various political roles,” Kaitis said. “We met with our state representative Zach Cook. Supreme Court Justice Daniels showed us the Supreme Court building, along with its amazing law library, and then we met with Governor (Susana) Martinez.”
During the two and a half hour meeting, Kaitis had an opportunity to discuss Senate Bill 61, which proposed adding definitions of “suffocation” and “strangulation” to the Family Violence Protection Act, the Crimes Against Household Members Act, and the Abuse and Neglect Act, and clarifying that the crime of Aggravated Battery Against a Household Member may be committed by suffocation or strangulation.
Specifically, the language of the bill defines “strangulation” as the “unlawful touching or application of force to another person’s neck or throat with intent to injure that person and in a manner whereby great bodily harm or death can be inflicted, the result of which impedes the person’s normal breathing or blood circulation.”
Further, “suffocation” is thoroughly defined as “the unlawful touching or application of force that blocks the nose or mouth of another person with intent to injure that person and in a manner whereby great bodily harm or death can be inflicted, the result of which impedes the person’s normal breathing or blood circulation.”
“The New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence has been trying to get a bill on strangulation passed for several years without success,” Kaitis said. “This was a great success, because the bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. After that, it was up to the governor to take no action on it, to veto it, or to sign it into law.”
The governor signed the bill into law on Feb. 14. The full bill can be read at: xhttps://legiscan.com/NM/text/SB61/2018.)
“It is important that HEAL has a presence in Santa Fe to both support state bills like SB 61 that will be of help to our clients and also to oppose any bills that would harm our clients," Kaitis said. "We must make our voice heard and the more people that stand in support or opposition of a bill do have an effect on legislators. Legislators consider testimony and phone or email contact from constituents before they take their vote.
"Other bills we were interested in included a bill on providing victims with confidential addresses in a way that helps to keep the location of their current residence from their abuser. That bill also was passed.”
Kaitis and the Leadership Lincoln Class attended the Lincoln County Day evening event sponsored by the Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce. The room was filled with community members from Lincoln County such as Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford, Lincoln County Commissioner Dallas Draper and Ruidoso Police Chief Darren Hooker.