Senators OK bills to protect violence, rape victims
Victims of violence are one step closer to receiving full legal protection as tenants, thanks to the legislature’s unanimous passage of the Guam Safe Housing Act of 2020 today.
Authored by Sen. Mary Camacho Torres, Bill 214-35 would allow victims to terminate their rental agreement early without suffering legal or financial consequences. Tenants must provide a police report, a court order, or a written statement from a licensed medical or mental health professional as evidence of victimization.
A substitute version of the measure was proffered by Torres during deliberation on the floor with no objection. In addition to permitting early termination, as well as prohibiting discrimination, eviction and retaliation, the bill provides tenants the option of having their locks changed if they provide their landlord with a court order.
“Bill 214 adds Guam to a growing list of states that recognize it’s wrong to force a victim to stay in an abusive situation,” Torres said. “I thank my colleagues for acknowledging the same, and hope the Governor will act swiftly on this measure.”
Lawmakers also voted to pass Torres’ Bill 162-35 (COR) today. The measure terminates the parental rights of rapists if they are found by “clear and convincing evidence” of committing sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child. Currently, a rapist is free and clear to pursue custody or visitation rights so long as they are not deemed an unfit parent.
According to the Public Defender Service Corp. Bill 162 could further increase much-needed federal funding to Guam. Under the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act (U.S. Public Law No. 114-22), states with laws that allow parental rights termination under the clear and convincing standard are eligible for additional funds in their Stop Violence Against Women (STOP) and Sexual Assault Services Program formula awards.
“No victim should be forced to raise their child alongside their attacker,” Torres said. “By providing clear grounds for termination, Bill 162 closes the current gap in our law—protecting Guam’s children and our victims.”