Confirmed victory
Petitioning West Virginia State Senate and 1 other
This petition was delivered to:
West Virginia State Senate
West Virginia Governor

Pass Celena's Law to Prosecute Domestic Violence Perpetrators

Celena Roby's abuser admitted to the judge that he had confined his wife and held her against her will, but he was nonetheless able to walk out of the courtroom a free man. Roby says the judge decided he was not guilty because she wasn't afraid enough of being harmed, even though this was a pattern of abuse, both physical assault and restraint, that had gone on for 11 years. "This is why women don't leave," Roby told the arresting officer. She said she had been cut off from having friends, and felt like she was being kept in a "three-bedroom prison."

But Roby did leave, The Charleston Gazette reports, after her seven-year-old son, having seen her head smashed into the wall, thought that his mother should have just answered her abuser's question more quickly so as to escape harm. And then she decided to do something about this miscarriage of justice. That's when she came up with Celena's Law.

Celena's Law is modeled on legislation in 38 states that makes unlawful restraint a misdemeanor. In West Virginia, where Roby lives, kidnapping is a felony, but only applies to restraint intended to obtain a "concession" (ransom), which doesn't apply to domestic abuse situations. Which means that a domestic violence perpetrator, like Roby's husband, can stroll into a courtroom, admit to restraining his wife against her will, and walk out again a free man and confessed abuser. And it means that prosecutors have fewer ways to go after domestic violence perpetrators.

Roby is working in conjunction with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sheriff's Association on getting support for the bill. "It's the most frustrating part of this job, when you know that someone is the victim of a crime or situation but there's nothing on the books to help that person," Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins, head of the Sheriff's Association, commented. Their efforts have already persuaded seven state delegates and three senators to support her bill, netting Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) as the lead sponsor.

The bill will come up for a vote in the new legislative session, which starts January 12, and Hawkins believe it has a strong chance of success. But you can help to make sure Celena's Law gets the votes it needs by signing this petition asking West Virginia lawmakers to help protect domestic violence victims.

Roby states, "I do know this law won't change what happened to me, but if I get to see this law help one person, that's really all the justice the boys and I could ever ask for."

Photo credit: Support Celena's LAW Facebook Page


Letter to
West Virginia State Senate
West Virginia Governor
In the 2011 legislative session, a bill is being proposed to create more ways to prosecute domestic violence perpetrators. Called Celena's Law, it is named after a mother whose abuser was able to admit to restraining her against her will and still walk out of the courtroom a free man.

Celena Roby says the judge decided her husband was not guilty because she wasn't afraid enough of being harmed, even though this was a pattern of abuse, both physical assault and restraint, that had gone on for 11 years. "This is why women don't leave," Roby told the arresting officer.

Celena's Law is modeled on legislation in 38 states that makes unlawful restraint a misdemeanor. In West Virginia, as you no doubt know, kidnapping is a felony, but only applies to restraint intended to obtain a "concession" (ransom), which doesn't apply to domestic abuse situations.

This means that a domestic violence perpetrator, like Roby's husband, can stroll into a courtroom, admit to restraining his wife against her will, and walk out again a free man and confessed abuser. And it means that prosecutors have fewer ways to go after domestic violence perpetrators.

This bill has the support of the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Sheriff's Association. "It's the most frustrating part of this job, when you know that someone is the victim of a crime or situation but there's nothing on the books to help that person," Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins, head of the Sheriff's Association, commented.

Roby states, "I do know this law won't change what happened to me, but if I get to see this law help one person, that's really all the justice the boys and I could ever ask for." Please help this wish to become a reality and support Celena's Law.