SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- A new law aims to help Missourians impacted by domestic violence. The Victims Economic Safety and Security Act follows the lead of many other states across the U.S.
Employers have until October 27 to start offering this policy for their employees.
“I was in an abusive relationship, I would say about five years ago. And, it started off kind of simple and then snowballed into a thing,” said Peyton Ragan, a Springfield resident.
Peyton is out of her abusive situation. But, she remembers what it was like juggling her safety and well-being with her job.
“It can be hard when you’re going through it…to call in for days off… and there is still a stigma around that,” she said.
Brandi Bartel, Executive Director of The Victim Center, said, “Being able to leave a dangerous situation is dependent upon the financial means to do so.” She added, “Without the right supportive work environment, sometimes these next steps are nearly impossible.”
Victim advocates say the first 60 to 90 days are the most important for someone leaving a violent life circumstance. There is a lot to do, like getting medical or mental health support, moving to a safe environment, and taking care of legal matters.
“For most people, thinking about having to do all of those things at one time is incredibly overwhelming,” Bartel said. “And most victims- if they have a job- cannot afford to take time off of work.”
Now, help is on the way for those facing tough choices. Missouri’s new Victims Economic Safety and Security Act requires employers with 20 or more people to provide up to two weeks of unpaid leave for those dealing with domestic violence.
“A lot of employers wanted to help their employees and just needed the right tools to be able to do that in a better way,” Bartel said.
Another local advocacy agency, Harmony House, says it’s thrilled to see this type of legislation for those experiencing abuse.
It stated, “ We are pleased the legislation also includes time off to assist family or household members who are experiencing abuse. The support of family can play a crucial role in helping victims; a role that is distinctly different from service professionals. Knowing that you are not alone and that you are believed by those closest to you can help stop cycles of violence in families.”
Peyton hopes it helps others who are now where she once was.
“I think I would have felt more comfortable getting out sooner. I think it is beautiful that they are offering that. I think it is justice for sure.”