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15-Dollar "Sacred Vows" Fee to Protect VA Kids

January 27, 2009

Richmond – An extra fifteen bucks to make that special day official could help ensure the safety of Virginia's future. That's the idea behind a proposed $45-increase to the marriage license fee.

Arlene Vassell-Richards is the hotline manager and child and youth advocacy coordinator for the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance. The increase would generate $600,000 for children and youth services at sexual assault crisis centers and domestic violence programs, she says. Those funds could help families in crisis and teach children about good marriages, she adds.

"We can teach them, early, components of healthy relationships, so that we can prevent them from being exposed to future unhealthy situations."

An estimated 362,000 Virginia children are exposed to domestic violence each year, says Vassell-Richards, and are sometimes lost in the system.

"When we think about domestic and sexual violence, a lot of times we think about adults who are affected and not the children. Their voices are silenced because they can't speak up."

The current fee for marriage licenses is $30, ten of which goes to the Virginia Department of Social Services. 28 other states dedicate a portion of their marriage license fees toward domestic violence services. The fee was last increased in 1993, and the General Assembly currently is considering a bill to make the change.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA