Bill aims to help women 'get out while they can'

Posted at 6:02 PM, Oct 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-14 18:02:24-04

COLUMBUS -- It was just over a year ago when Monica Weber Jeter was allegedly attacked by her husband Andre Jeter in her North College Hill home.

In January last year, he was accused of attempting to strangle her and was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. He plead no contest, but was released after serving only 11 days of a 180-day sentence. 

On Oct. 4, 2014, he allegedly stabbed her multiple times while she slept in their home. She died after 32 days in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Hospital. Jeter was found incompetent to stand trial, and is now in a behavioral health facility awaiting a December trial on charges of attempted aggravated murder, felonious assault and domestic violence. 

Today, two state representatives announced a new bill that would attempt to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

When Monica’s sisters, Amy Weber and Nicole Miller, heard that the “Monica’s Law” was finally going to be introduced, they cried.

“We want to honor her memory and we hope that women hear this message, and if they’re being strangled in this type of abuse in their relationships, they’ll get help and get out while they can,” Weber said.

Monica’s Law would make non-fatal strangulation a felony offense punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Michael Stinziano of Columbus said that this bill would give survivors of domestic violence a way out of their situation.

“Our goal is keep the abuser away so that the individual can get the help, get the safety they need,” he said. “We’re behind in terms of what we’re doing as a state. It’s time for Ohio’s laws to be reflective and protect these victims.”

Currently 33 other states have similar laws making strangulation a felony, and this helps prevent domestic homicides, according to Nancy Neylon, executive director with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.

She said that this legislation offers an opportunity to educate the public about the dangers of strangulation.

“What happens when you pass legislation is that it really changes everything,” she said. “It’ll be a time for us to do some really good training with law enforcement officers so they as a matter of course start asking about strangulation when they come upon a scene.”

She and others emphasized that strangulation is often not physically obvious to law enforcement, leading to fewer citations for assault, despite the very serious medical harm that it can cause over time.

Amy Weber and Nicole Miller have been circulating an online petition to get this legislation passed in the state since their sister died. Educating people on the subtle dangers of strangulation is part of their goal.

“I think other people outside of the abusive relationship also need to be educated in the fact that people are being strangled and we might not know it,” Miller said.

Ben Postlethwait is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter @BCPostlethwait