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Governor signs new laws aimed at domestic abuse

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Gov. David Ige has given final approval to a package of bills designed to help victims and the authorities cope with problems related to domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Three of the bills would assist abuse victims who are trying to escape from violent relationships.

“Oftentimes the hardest thing to do is to leave their partner, and it is sometimes made even harder when their lives are connected because of the living situation,” Ige said. “The highest number of deaths among victims of domestic violence occurs when the victim takes steps to leave the batterer.”

The measures were supported by the Women’s Legislative Caucus, and were signed into law Thursday:

» One requires wireless telecommunications companies to release domestic violence victims from shared service plans upon request and without penalties, provided the victims provide documentation of domestic violence.

The new law also authorizes Family Court to order wireless providers to transfer billing authority when they are petitioned by a victim.

Before signing the measure, Ige said the new law is needed because “perpetrators often use the shared cellphone contract to further abuse their victims by racking up phone charges, and this can result in significant difficulties for the women.”

» Ige also signed a bill that allows the early termination of rental agreements without penalty in cases involving domestic violence. The victims in those cases will also need to provide documentation to their landlords before terminating the agreement.

» Another new law modifies an existing law that allows police to separate people involved in suspected domestic abuse cases for a 48-hour cooling-off period.

Under Act 221 signed by Ige on Thursday, the separation ordered by the officer will last for at least two business days from the time the order is issued.

“This bill will ensure that victims have enough time to get to a safe location and be able to get services, especially those that are only available on business days,” Ige said.

Ige also approved creation of a new “affirmative consent” task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawaii’s executive policy on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Last week Ige also approved a new law to require the state Department of Health to conduct reviews of domestic violence fatalities, near deaths and suicides. The data will be used to help reform the response system in domestic violence cases and to aid prevention efforts.

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