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posted: 5/29/2012 6:22 PM

Domestic protections should include everyone

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

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Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to police.

With these kinds of statistics, as reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it's no wonder that in 1994 a federal domestic violence law was passed and renewed in 2000 and 2005 without issue.But this is 2012 and even domestic violence is now embroiled in partisan politics as a social wedge issue. That's deplorable.

We are very pleased, though, that a couple members of the House of Representatives on the Republican side representing the suburbs supported the Senate version -- Reps. Robert Dold of Kenilworth and Judy Biggert of Hinsdale. Biggert has been out front on this issue as she seeks to get what she calls common-sense provisions included in the final version of the law.

We agree wholeheartedly with Biggert as do Illinois experts on domestic violence.

"No person is immune from sexual assault. Therefore, no person should be left off the bill as far as being protected," Michelle Meyer, executive director of Mutual Ground, an Aurora shelter, said in a story reported last week by staff writer James Fuller. "When this bill first came out, we sent a very clear message that we don't tolerate violence against women at all. Now it feels like there's been a rollback."

The changes come in the House Republican-written version, which removed protections for gay men and lesbians, Native Americans and illegal immigrants.

"I don't think many of our members communicated with the shelters and providers to really know the ins and outs of this issue," Biggert said. If true, then we urge Biggert's suburban colleagues to do what she did -- listen to those providers of services and act accordingly. No one should be denied protection from a shelter or be reticent about seeking help.

A compromise between the House and Senate bills now will potentially be hammered out by a conference committee. Biggert intends to inform that committee of real-world stories from the suburban domestic violence experts with whom she has met.

Between real world stories and national statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence, it is hard to fathom why this issue should be caught up in the politics of the day. This is, as the National Coalition of Domestic Violence says, an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. It also does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

That's why the federal law needs to include everyone.

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