Lawmakers spent a sunny Saturday in Salem pushing though bills so they could end the short, even-year session and go home.

While the session had its share of disappointments, 2018 will go down as a year in which the Legislature took action to protect victims of domestic violence.

Today, the Oregon Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1562, which expands the definition of strangulation and upgrades the charge in many cases from a misdemeanor to a felony. The bill unanimously passed the House on Friday.

Chief Sponsor Sen. Kathleen Taylor
Chief Sponsor Sen. Kathleen Taylor

A similar bill languished in the 2017 session but a cascade of news stories about the abuse of women in the past nine months appears to have changed the climate in Salem. Chief sponsor Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland) gambled successfully that her colleagues could no longer allow strangulation to be treated so cavalierly.

Advocates and domestic violence survivors, including Kim Bradley, the subject of a WW cover story last fall, presented lawmakers with horrific accounts of strangulation and the physical and psychological damage it does.

“What we have learned over the years is that near fatal strangulation is especially prevalent in domestic violence and sexual assault cases,” Melissa Erlbaum of Clackamas Women’s Services told lawmakers.
“Offenders do not always strangle their partners to kill them, they often strangle them to let them know they can kill them any time they wish. Once a victim knows this truth, they live under the power and control and the daily terrorism of their abusers.”
Lawmakers also earlier abandoned their reluctance to tackle gun control and passed the so-called “boyfriend loophole” bill, which allows police to take guns from stalkers and some perpetrators of domestic violence who aren’t married to their victims.
In a statement celebrating the end of the session this afternoon, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) noted the progress lawmakers made in strengthening protections for women.

“More than 55 percent of female homicides were related to domestic violence last year,” Courtney said. “This session we took two major steps in addressing this issue. We passed Senate Bill 1562, which expands the definition of strangulation and elevates it to a felony. We also passed House Bill 4145 closing the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ which will keep guns away from domestic abusers and stalkers. Domestic violence is a serious issue. It affects too many Oregonians. These bills will protect victims and help keep families safe.”