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New Law Defends Victims of Sexual Assault -- 03-31-10

Holmes’ bill enables rural victims to receive protective orders

(JUNEAU) – Representative Lindsey Holmes’ (D-Anchorage) House Bill 307 protecting victims of sexual assault is now law.  Governor Sean Parnell signed the measure today on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol.  The signing ceremony marked the beginning of an “Alaskans Choose Respect” march and rally, part of a statewide effort to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Similar events were scheduled today in eighteen communities across the state.

“This bill makes it easier for victims of sexual assault – especially those in rural communities – to obtain protection from their assailants,” Rep. Holmes said.  “I was extremely gratified by the Legislature’s quick and unanimous passage of HB 307.  Their prompt action shows both houses and both parties can come together on important issues.  I am especially pleased Governor Parnell signed it into law at this important event.” 

HB 307 amends existing law to explicitly give magistrates and district court judges jurisdiction to grant protective orders in cases of sexual assault. This change is especially important to Alaska’s rural communities, which often have access only to magistrates or district courts.

Statutes for protective orders have been changed twice in recent years.  Prior to 2001, protective orders were issued only in cases of domestic violence.  HB 1 in 2001 created a new statute extending protections to victims of stalking committed by someone other than a domestic partner.  This statute was extended to victims of sexual assault with SB 54 in 2006.  However, SB 54 did not amend jurisdiction for magistrates and district courts to issue the orders.

Because the revised statute could be interpreted to mean magistrates and district court judges lacked jurisdiction to issue protective orders in cases of sexual assault, when some claimants brought petitions that clearly required protective orders, judges were unable to offer assistance.

“HB 307 repairs a gap in the statute and helps defend all victims of sexual assault in our state from their attackers,” Rep Holmes said.  “I welcome the increased attention to sexual assault and am glad the legislature and the administration have come together to strengthen this tool for victims of sexual assault.”

For more information, contact Rep. Holmes or aide Bill Edwards at (907) 465-4919 or Representative_Lindsey_Holmes@legis.state.ak.us.

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