Utah House bill would create more protections for victims of sexual violence

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ST. GEORGE — One of the many bills on the horizon for the 2019 Utah legislative session is focusing on adding more protection for victims of sexual abuse.

The Sexual Violence Protective Orders bill, designated as HB 100, would create sexual violence protective orders for victims who have suffered from sexual abuse, even if the sexual abuse was a singular event.

Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, the bill’s sponsor, said under current laws there are protective orders that protect cohabitants, meaning living together or married, and for victims who are in a dating relationship.

This bill makes available a protective order to a victim who is neither a cohabitant nor in a dating relationship but who has suffered and been the victim of abuse by a perpetrator, even if it’s simply a singular event,” Snow told St. George News.

Essentially, the bill would help those who have suffered from sexual violence by someone they attend school with, someone they work with, a neighbor or a stranger, Snow said, adding that victims oftentimes know their perpetrator.

Under HB 100, a victim of sexual violence who is neither a cohabitant or dating partner of the perpetrator would be able to seek an ex parte sexual violence protective order, meaning a protective order that’s issued without notice to the respondent. The bill would prohibit the respondent from contacting the victim or victim’s family.

“The order can go to any kind of physical contact, any kind of verbal contact and any kind of electronic communication, like harassment through text messages or email or telephone calls,” he said.

In addition, HB 100 would provide ways for a victim to obtain assistance from the court without hiring a lawyer, Lowry said. The bill would also require that sexual violence protective orders be placed on the statewide warrant system.

“I’m working with a number of people who have experienced this kind of abuse and have tried to obtain assistance under the existing law, but because they were not in a cohabitant or dating relationship,” Lowry said, “they were not able to obtain this kind of protective order.”

Lowry said he suspects that the bill will go to a committee hearing within the first two weeks of the session, which begins Monday.

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues

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