COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers passed a sweeping criminal justice bill early Thursday morning. Senate Bill 288 will now go to Governor Mike Dewine’s desk for a signature.
It covers everything from cell phone use while driving, to reducing the penalty for underage drinking and even helping inmates better transition after release.
Also written into that 1,700 page bill was Senate 90 which makes strangulation a felony in Ohio, as opposed to a misdemeanor. It is something domestic violence advocates and survivors have asked for for years.
Ohio is the only state that doesn’t have a strangulation law on the books.
“We are very excited and happy that so many of the bills that we've been tracking and pushing over the last few years have been reintroduced and finally passed as of last night. We are taking today to celebrate,” said Maria York, of Ohio’s Domestic Violence Network.
Thursday’s passage has been a long time coming for domestic violence survivor and advocate, Jess Patz.
“You feel validated for the first time in almost 8 years,” she said.
She has been speaking out about increasing the penalty for strangulation in the state of Ohio for years and sent in a written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019, when the bill was heard in committee but failed to pass.
“That’s part of the reason I had reached out to Angie and asked her to share our stories together for the first time ever,” she said.
The two talked about their mutual abuser’s escalation, from strangling and abusing Patz to then nearly killing Miller. He was sent to prison for 20 years for what he did to Miller.
In November, she detailed the time she narrowly escaped with her life.
“He grabbed his belt and strangled with his belt. He was sitting on top of me and he started punching me and he broke my nose and cheek bone and then he began sexually assaulting me,” said Miller.
Studies show women who have been strangled by their partners are 750% more likely to be murdered than victims who haven’t experienced strangulation and someone who strangles once is likely to do it again.
“My ex-husband oftentimes was right in front of my face, looking me down in the eyes when he strangled me and that look, that look will never leave me,” said Patz. “No form of physical abuse is ever acceptable but the the repetitive thought that always goes through your brain when someone is trying to stop you from breathing is ‘you're trying to kill me. I may die in this very instant.’”
Nicholas Pinardo lost his daughter Alyssa Pinardo in May of this year. She was a senior at Brunswick High School. Her boyfriend was charged with shooting and killing her.
Pinardo said, since her death, he is dedicated to advocating for domestic violence. He hopes to spread more education about the signs and the lethal symptoms.
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“I've lived it and I'm going through it and if I can help one parent not go through it because we said something or we did something. I'm there for it,” he said.
York said more than 83% of survivors that come to their shelters have a history of being strangled.
“A lot of them did not ever get prosecuted. Their abusers never got prosecuted,” she said.
Lisa DeGeeter of Ohio’s Domestic Violence Network said making the penalty harsher gives victims the gift of time.
“It allows prosecutors to put in place consequences for that kind of conduct that hopefully will, while someone's incarcerated, provide time for a survivor to get safe, to get out of the situation, to relocate or whatever is necessary so that they don't have the opportunity to escalate the violence,” she said.
Patz said SB 288 is a huge step in the right direction but one she wishes would’ve happened sooner, so her abuser and so many other repeat abusers didn’t have the chance to hurt someone else.
“It could have been prevented. What if he had been arrested with me and he had been charged with a felony? You just have all these lingering questions. She could have been spared this tragic experience,” she said.
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