Law enforcement and social service providers are praising Nebraska’s new comprehensive legislative assault on domestic violence, reports the Omaha World-Herald. A law taking effect today effect today classifies as a separate crime an assault on a spouse or other intimate partner, helping prosecutors obtain enhanced penalties for repeat abusers. Marty Conboy, Omaha city prosecutor, said that, “It sends a message that Nebraska has a new view of the severity of this crime.”
In the past, police agencies across the state handled domestic violence differently. There was no consistent record keeping that could automatically identify a batterer. Now domestic abuse offenders will be so labeled on paper and prosecutors will be able to raise the penalty for repeat offenses from a misdemeanor to a felony. Karen Shepard, an Omaha Public School board member and member of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, is a domestic violence survivor. In 1981, she said, her case was treated as a “simple misdemeanor assault” and even after the arrest, she felt vulnerable.