Tierne’s Law a step in right direction to protect victims of domestic violence

Domestic abuse is often a silent crime.

Victims are embarrassed to ask for help, feeling isolated and alone despite resources that could help them.

Many victims fear coming forward and pressing charges, concerned about the consequences they may face should their abuser not be jailed, or be able to post bond.

A new measure signed into law last week by Gov. Tom Wolf could help assuage those fears, and will hopefully encourage more victims to come forward.

Tierne’s Law — Senate Bill 449 — named for a Washington County, Pa., woman killed by her husband in a 2016 murder-suicide, opens the door for judges to use risk-assessment tools when they set bail in cases that involve domestic violence.

The bill allows county president judges to adopt a risk assessment tool, used to determine if someone accused of domestic violence presents a danger to others. If magisterial district judges or common pleas judges determine that to be the case, they can set higher bail as a measure to protect victims.

Tierne Ewing’s family pushed for the law after the West Finley woman was kidnapped and tortured by her husband before he killed her and shot himself. Weeks prior to her death, her husband was arrested for domestic violence for beating her over a nearly 12-day period. While a district judge set a $100,000 bond, Kevin Ewing posted it.

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-45th District in western Pennsylvania, sponsored the legislation.

During a signing ceremony in Harrisburg, Bartolotta called Tierne’s Law a “critical step to ensure judges can make the best decision possible when deciding whether to set bail for offenders.”

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that the lives of 78 women and 39 men were taken last year by domestic violence.

Sixty percent of those victims were killed by either a current or former intimate partner, PCADV reported.

In the last decade, about 1,600 people died across the state as a result of domestic violence. The number stretches across gender, age, race and socio-economic status.

As someone who has said she has a history of domestic violence in her family, Bartolotta has said she’s passionate about working to strengthen laws that will keep victims safe.

Tierne’s law is certainly a step in the right direction, and we are hopeful that state lawmakers will continue to examine the criminal justice system to further protect the women, men and children who are victims of the silent, senseless crime.

The Clinton County Women’s Shelter in Lock Haven offers services to victims of domestic violence. It’s hotline is 570-748-9509.

The Centre County Women’s Center in Bellefonte provides the same. Its hotline is 1-877-234-5050.