Iowa lawmaker wants to make it harder for domestic and sexual violence victims to get protective orders

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Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville. — illustration by Jordan Sellergren

Two bills recently introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives would make it harder for victims of domestic and sexual abuse to get temporary protective orders. Both bills, HF 2214 and HF 2246, were both introduced by Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Republican from Janesville. She is also currently the sole sponsor of both bills.

HF 2246, filed on Monday, would replace the current evidentiary standard for getting a temporary protective order, a preponderance of the evidence, and require the person seeking the order “prove an allegation of domestic abuse or sexual abuse beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“This would have a significant impact,” said Kristie Dozer, executive director of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP). “In the last quarter of 2017 we worked with 42 victims who had who protection or restraining orders.”

DVIP, an Iowa City-based nonprofit, opened its first shelter for people threatened by domestic violence in 1980. It now covers eight counties in southeastern Iowa — Johnson, Iowa, Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Lee, Van Buren and Washington.

Dozer pointed out that there are other “no contact” orders under Iowa law, such as ones for victims of stalking or harassment, but this bill doesn’t change the standards for getting a temporary protective order in those cases.

“It’s dangerous, and kind of unfathomable, that someone would pick out one civil procedure, and say we’re going to have a higher evidentiary standard for one and not the others,” Dozer said.

Salmon’s other bill, HF 2214, also singles out people seeking protection in cases of domestic and sexual abuse.

Under current Iowa law, a hearing on a temporary protective order must be held “Not less than five and not more than fifteen days after commencing a proceeding and upon notice to the other party.” But a judge is permitted to extend that time period, if it is deemed necessary. The temporary protective order remains in effect during that time.

HF 2214 would strip judges of the power to extend the time period for those hearings, and automatically terminate any protective order if the hearing doesn’t occur within 15 days of the request for the order being filed.

“This is coming at a time when our legislature is looking at significant cuts to the courts,” Dozer noted.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady has warned that the state’s judicial system is being underfunded to the point that it will likely start impacting the ability of ordinary Iowans to have full access to the court system. Last month, Courts Administrator Todd Nuccio said that 30 county courthouses across the state will have to close if the legislature doesn’t increase funding for the court system.

And those are the only funding cuts that have an impact of victims of domestic and sexual violence in Iowa, Dozer explained.

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“This is coming at time when victim services have been cut 25 percent last year, and we’re looking at additional cuts for this fiscal year,” Dozer said. “We’re also looking at potential cuts for the coming year.”

Little Village left voicemail messages and sent emails to Salmon asking her to answer questions about her bills, but has received no reply.

HF 2214 and HF 2246 have been referred to the Judiciary Committee of the Iowa House.

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