A state senator has asked officials at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to reconsider a new agency policy that would require domestic violence victims be counseled on the virtues of healthy marriage, two-parent families and sexual abstinence.
“This needs to be reviewed,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat and a members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “If SRS doesn’t change this on its own, pressure will be applied in committee. This is wrong and needs to be rectified.”
Kelly also is the ranking minority member on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
The new requirements are included in proposed contracts between SRS and community programs that serve and counsel victims of domestic violence who are poor and eligible for public assistance.
Most of the services are designed to help victims — nearly all of whom are women with young children — achieve independence and avoid abusive relationships.
“With the change in administration that's going on at SRS, this would be an excellent time to review the content and the direction of this contract,” Kelly said, referring to the recent resignation of SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki.
Siedlecki, an outspoken proponent of healthy marriage, fatherhood and faith-based services, had been secretary for about a year.
Other legislators echoed Kelly's concerns.
“When someone gets married, all of us, I think, hope that that relationship turns out well,” said Sen. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway. “But there are times when things don’t work out — when there’s spousal abuse or child abuse or both — when divorce, separation or a prolonged absence is the course to take.
“If people in these situations are going to be told they ought to stay married, we should be rethinking the contract,” Huntington said. “Healthy marriage is an admirable goal, but not in every instance.”
According to the new SRS terms, eligible contractors must be “a Community-Based Organization that focuses primarily on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; healthy families initiative, pregnancy prevention through abstinence based programming, parent involvement, and child abuse reduction.”
The contractor also “will be encouraged to work with faith-based and community supports to increase the unification of two (2) parent families and promote pregnancy prevention through abstinence based programs.”
Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, said the proposed contract appeared to be ill-conceived.
“I don’t think abstinence works when you’re being raped,” he said.
Continue reading at khi.org/domesticviolence.