The House wants victims of domestic abuse to be able to get lifetime orders of protection against their abusers. That would be possible under a bill sent to the Senate this week.
Orders of protection are generally only effective for one year. House Bill 744 would allow a judge, after a review of the case, to issue one for the lifetime of the abuser.
It is sponsored by former Department of Public Safety Director and former Joplin Police Chief, Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin).
“I spent a great deal of my life having to look women in the eye and explain to them why I could not do what I knew needed to be done to help them, and I had to leave them living in fear and could not put a stop to it. Finally I find myself in a position to actually do something about it,” said Roberts. “If I never do anything more in this body than pass this particular bill I will still have made a contribution that I’ll take home and feel good about.”
Under the bill a judge considering whether an order should last for a lifetime would consider the evidence of the case; the history of abuse, stalking, and threatening; an abuser’s criminal record; previous orders of protection; and whether the respondent has violated probation or parole, or previous orders of protection.
Lane said the women who bravely came to testify on his bill shared stories of horrific abuse that had continued for years.
“26-week pregnant women being beaten with a shovel, women who were sexually abused in a hospital while they were medicated, ex-fiancées being shot and paralyzed, women beaten so badly that they have to have facial reconstruction,” said Roberts.
“The victims of this find themselves going to court every single year when it goes on and on. In one case one of these victims has been to court 68 times in nine years,” said Roberts.
Kansas City representative Mark Ellebracht (D) is an attorney who has counseled women who are experiencing abuse. He said it is more than frustrating to know that they must go back to court every year to deal with the case.
“Often when they go back to court, their abuser [can represent himself], which means he gets to cross-examine her and ask her very sensitive, very personal questions and harass her again in front of a court because of the way the system works. This bill is designed to fix that,” said Ellebracht. “It’s a very, very good bill.”
The bill would also allow courts to include pets in dealing with domestic abuse. This would include awarding possession of a pet and considering abuse or threatened abuse of a pet in making decisions in the case. Legislators said often abusers threaten or harm a pet in an effort to control or terrorize a victim.
The House voted 151-2 to send that legislation to the Senate.
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Ellebracht = EL-eh-brockt