Some Florida lawmakers and advocates are pushing for a bill classifying the abuse of a parent as a form of domestic abuse. The measure stems from a woman who lost her life years ago.
“On July 15, 2013, my nephew murdered my sister as she was preparing for work,” said Alice Flowers.
Flowers is recalling the painful memory of the events that led to her sister, Rosemary Pate’s death. Pate’s son Everett was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder.
“She had suffered years of abuse from him,” she added. “Although he had been detained in the Department of Juvenile Justice, many times he was returned home to her where the abuse continued, although law enforcement were aware of the threats.”
And, Flowers says losing her sister like this has been tough on the whole family.
“My father has been through a lot,” she continued. “He got a call. Early one morning, my youngest sister and her husband went to his house to let him know that his grandchild had murdered his child. We have been through the ringer with this.”
Flowers just finished a bicycle ride from Orlando to Tallahassee in memory of her sister. Now, she’s advocating on behalf of a bill that she says would have helped.
“Myself and four cyclists have cycled to show how serious we are about getting a bill for police protections for parents and a bill that would begin intervening early for troubled children,” she concluded.
That bill Flowers is pushing for is sponsored by Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando).
“We know that in Orange County we have a problem because we’ve studied it,” she said. “And, 426 children were arrested in 2012 for domestic violence, physically assaulting family members in their own homes. And, according to an article, elderly people are likely to be hurt by their children or other caretakers more than any other individual.”
And, Thompson says she’s saddened that even with a restraining order stating that Pate’s son had threatened her and she’d been afraid of him for years, the 51-year-old’s petition went nowhere.
“He had indicated that he would kill her two years earlier when he was 16,” Thompson added. “She said her petition to the judge had not really been acted upon because right now, in the law, regarding domestic abuse, the abuse of a parent is not included and so, this bill would correct that. And, it would include abuse of a parent as one of the forms of domestic abuse.”
The abuse may include aggravated abuse, exploitation of a parent’s assets, or emotional abuse of a parent by a biological child. The bill also requires the abuse of a parent be reported to the state abuse hotline.
And, Rep. Victor Torres (D-Orlando), the bill’s House sponsor, says the measure is needed.
“We need to make sure our parents are protected against abusive children,” he said. “The abuse tends to begin with verbal abuse, gradually progresses to property damage, breaking the walls, breaking down doors…ultimately, it becomes physical and that’s when you have the problems, that’s when you start seeing the aggression against the parents.”
So far, neither the Senate nor the House bill have had a hearing. But, both sponsors say they remain hopeful that if it dies this year, it will still be heard next session.
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