The Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence & Stalking Project endorses "Voice of Hope" Legislation

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University South Dakota School of Law’s Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence & Stalking Project (DVSVSP), a law school student organization, formally endorsed Professor Roger Baron’s effort to change South Dakota law through the establishment of a “unilateral no fault ground for divorce.”

The president of DVSVSP, Deb Morris, made the announcement today, observing that Baron has been advocating for a true no-fault divorce law since 1990.  “The time to come forward with this endorsement is now,” said Morris. She stated that the adoption of the type of law encompassed by Baron’s proposal has been proven as an effective tool toward the reduction of domestic violence in other states. Reliable data indicates that the overall incidence of domestic violence was reduced by one-third in other states after they adopted unilateral no-fault divorce. This data further establishes a significant decline in female suicide and homicide rates. 

“This is another example of our outstanding faculty and active student body at USD Law. The School of Law and the University do not take positions on legislation but our students have an amazing opportunity to witness legislation and participate in the preparatory process first-hand,” said Tom Geu, dean of the law school. “Our student organizations provide a valuable vehicle for students to participate in real-life activities which directly affect our state, the legal profession and which enrich their educational experience as a whole.”

The current push for action stems from increased public awareness and outcry for change as a result of the op-ed piece written by Baron and his daughter, Shawna Baron (a clinical psychologist), “Domestic violence victims hindered by fault-based divorce law,’ published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader on Oct. 9, 2014. 

The current draft of the proposed law has been titled “Voice of Hope.”  This title was recommended by Roger Buechler whose sister Tania Aesoph was slain by her husband in 1999. Tania Aesoph’s story inspired Roger Baron to propose changes, once again, to the current South Dakota divorce statute. Tania Aesoph endured years of mental and emotional abuse. She ultimately lost her life at the hand of her husband in 1999 after inquiring into a divorce and learning that the law was not favorable to her. Tania’s siblings are supporting Baron’s efforts and they wish to emphasize that the new legislation, if enacted, will provide “Hope” to South Dakota’s domestic violence victims in the future.

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