New Connecticut State Laws Now in Effect

Beginning Oct. 1, Connecticut will uphold a number of new laws that aim to protect victims of domestic violence and families dealing with loss.

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A number of new laws took effect October 1. One takes a big step in protecting online dating users and victims of domestic violence.

For starters, online dating services will need to let Connecticut users know the physical and financial risks at play.

"I think this is another tool in the toolbox that people can use," said Maria Busineau, associate director of Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

Busineau is part of a statewide coalition of sexual assault crisis programs. She said this new law will protect a population not often acknowledged when talking about online safety.

"I know that we often talk to kids about being safe online, but we don't always talk about adults. They have to be as careful or more careful," Busineau said.

Senator Mae Flexer is a sponsor of the law, Bill SB-5, which ensures that dating sites are equipped with safety awareness notifications. 

"All online dating platforms that they have to share information with consumers about the fact that they don't conduct background checks," Flexer said.

The law also places protections around victims of family or domestic violence by requiring domestic violence training for state employees - a timely aspect of the bill with October the designated National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

"So, we've taken an important first step this year that all state workers will now be trained around domestic violence so they can see it both in their actions, with their own coworkers, but also in their interactions with the public," Flexer said.

The law also includes nearly $1.5 million in additional funding for advocates working with children experiencing domestic violence.

"We know that in the pandemic, there's been a lot more families that have had to endure domestic violence under incredibly challenging circumstances," Flexer said. "These advocates will recognize the challenges that are facing children and ensure that our system is taking their needs into effect."

Starting Oct. 1, officers will be required to notify family members within 24 hours in the event of losing a loved one.

Also going into effect is a law that supports families dealing with loss.

Beginning Saturday, police officers will be required to notify the next of kin within 24 hours if there has been a death.

It's a law inspired by the deaths of two women from Bridgeport.

The families of Lauren Smith Fields and Brenda Rawls want answers from Bridgeport police about how the deaths of the two women have been handled so far.

The families of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields and 53-year-old Brenda Lee Rawls were not notified by police that they had died. Instead, the families found out days later. Both women were found dead on Dec. 12, 2021.

"So really this is about families more than anything else," said Dr. Lesly Valbrun, second vice president of the Greater-Bridgeport NAACP. "We have to make sure that that is enforced and that that information is provided."

Valbrun said Bridgeport Police failed to inform the families, violating their right to know. It also happened more than once by the department.

"It really highlights the systemic nature of this because it happened twice in one night, which shows that. Two different sets of officers took the same approach," said Attorney Darnell Crosland.

Crosland, who represents both Bridgeport families, said the previous law didn't go far enough.

"They didn't require the police officers to document the steps they took in order to find the next of kin. They didn't have any penalties attached to them that says that the police officers failed to do this, that they can lose their post certification as police officers," Crosland said.

The new law requires officers to show an exhaustive attempt at finding the next of kin or relative or they will be held liable.

Saturday will also mark the establishment of Juneteenth as an official state holiday. The law will require schools, if still in session, to facilitate educational programing in observance of the holiday.

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