Bills protecting assault victims and children in foster care signed into law
Updated: Dec 30, 2022
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Sen. Mary Camacho Torres’ final four bills that are focused on protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and revamping Guam’s Child Protective Act are now public laws.
"It has been said that the best measure of a society is how it treats its citizens with the least power," Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said in signing Bills. 312-36, 313-36 and 314-36.
The three bills, the governor said, "are designed to protect Guam's most vulnerable people in a time of possibly their greatest need. These bills provide a mechanism to more easily obtain a protective order to prevent perpetrators from having contact with their victims."
Bill 312-36, now Public Law 36-125, expands necessary protections afforded to abuse victims and their children by prohibiting their attacker from cutting off necessities such as health, automobile, or homeowners’ insurance, power and water utilities, child support, and rental payments—allowing victims to survive apart from those who seek to oppress them.
Victims of nonconsensual sexual contact or penetration will now be able to petition the courts for immediate relief with the signing of Bill 313-36 into law, now known as Public Law 36-126.
Now, victims who have faced difficulty obtaining orders of protection under previous law will be able to gain stay-away orders against their attackers.
Bill 314-36, now Public Law 36-127, creates new civil remedies for those who have been threatened, frightened, or intimidated by their stalker.
Victims will now be able to petition the court for protection from their stalker, which includes, but is not limited to, restraining the respondent from physical contact—preventing such conduct from potentially escalating into physical attacks against the victim or their property.
“As the 36th Guam Legislature draws to a close, it is timely and appropriate to recognize Sen. Mary Torres, the sponsor of these bills, for her demonstrated commitment to protecting victims of abuse during her tenure in the Guam Legislature,” Leon Guerrero said.
Torres did not run for reelection.
“Countless people on Guam, many of them women and children, are safer because of her work. Sen. Torres will be missed at the legislature, but her legacy will live on in all whose lives she has changed with her steadfast compassion," the governor added.
Bill 299-36, now Public Law 36-135, prioritizes the health of the child by updating timelines and creating new standards in the Child Protective Act.
The changes represent a philosophical shift in Guam law, placing the well-being of a child before reunification with their family and preventing a child from spending years of uncertainty in the child welfare program.
Specifically, the law updates Guam’s permanency planning timelines to align with existing national standards and expands the aggravated circumstances that necessitate terminating parental rights, while still providing exceptions for parents undergoing treatment services or if CPS has documented another compelling reason not to terminate.
“The new timelines and standards to the Child Protective Act ensure that children will not languish in the foster care system longer than necessary,” Torres said. “Further, these standards set Guam on the path to be eligible for federal Title IV-E funds.
“As my time as senator comes to an end, I can ask for no better send-off than the passage of these bills into law—measures that focus on protecting the oppressed and the vulnerable," Torres said,