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Debbie and Marie Domestic Violence Protection Act approved

The General Assembly recently passed landmark legislation significantly increasing protections for domestic violence victims in Tennessee.

The Debbie and Marie Domestic Violence Protection Act, sponsored by State Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, requires aggravated assault suspects in certain domestic violence cases to wear a GPS monitoring system if they are released on bond. A GPS service provider must notify a victim’s cell phone if their alleged attacker is within a certain proximity of their location. The company must also notify local law enforcement if a defendant violates the terms of their bond conditions.

“Tennessee has struggled in recent years with a high number of domestic violence cases,” Doggett said. “As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects these crimes can have in our communities. Strengthening public safety and support for victims across our state remains a top priority. The Debbie and Marie Domestic Violence Protection Act will undoubtedly save lives, and I appreciate my colleagues in the General Assembly for their support.”

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The legislation is named in honor of Debbie Sisco and her daughter Marie Varsos. Both women were killed in 2021 by Varsos’ estranged husband who was out on bond after being arrested for strangling his wife and threatening to shoot her a month earlier.  

Statewide, there were 61,713 domestic violence cases reported in 2022, according to the most recent data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Of those victims, 71 percent were female.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that nearly 40 percent of women in Tennessee will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.

House Bill 2692 will now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law. It will take effect July 1.

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