Victims' protection bills draw support
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Three measures introduced by Sen. Mary Camacho Torres to enhance victim safety received strong support from key government agencies at a public hearing Wednesday.
“Seventy percent of our [domestic violence] victims are identified as high-risk and two-thirds of them identified that the perpetrator used other means to control who they talk to and where they went,” said Attorney General Leevin T. Camacho.
“These types of orders will help empower victims to give them the ability to leave potentially dangerous situations,” he added.
Bill 312 would include specific language in Guam’s protections from abuse statute that prevents abusers from cutting off some of the most basic needs of victims, such as health, automobile, or homeowners’ insurance; utility services, child support, personal property rights; and other necessary services.
“The key aspect of this legislation is it shows the intent of the legislature to ensure these victims not only have protective orders but a means of survival without their perpetrator,” said Attorney Daniel S. Somerfleck, executive director of Guam Legal Services Corporation.
“This bill would allow a victim to stay in the home, even if the home is owned by the perpetrator, instead of kicking the victim and her children out and then we’d have to find shelter for them. This is greatly needed,” testified Jayne Flores, director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, most survivors of sexual assault are not eligible to use the protective order process set forth in the law that requires proof of bodily injury.
These standards have made it challenging for victims to obtain a stay-away order through the legal system. To address this, Bill 313 authorizes a separate protection order for a victim of non-consensual sexual contact or penetration.
“As someone who’s gone to court for 30 years on these issues, this is something we need in our community,” Somerfleck said. “This is a bill that helps victims of sexual assault but more so, this is a bill that says, ‘these are the standards.’ It creates a paradigm shift in our community. I believe it’s long overdue.”
Finally, Bill 314 similarly creates a separate protection order for a person who is a victim of stalking. The measure makes clear that stalking conduct may be physical, verbal, written, electronic, telephonic, via the use of a computer, computer network, computer system, telephone network, data network, text message, instant message, or otherwise.
“This provides protection to victims where there is not that physical abuse element. Often, if there are no threats, there is very little I can do to assist a victim. With this legislation, that ends. By putting this in place, we prevent further violence,” Somerfleck said.
“I realize that a protection order will not remedy all ills. A successful intervention will require a comprehensive approach that includes proper training, enforcement, and community education,” Torres said. “Still, a protection order is more than just a piece of paper. For many victims of abuse, it provides most immediate forms of relief—and hopefully, peace of mind.”