Iowa lawmaker explains why she wants to make it harder for victims of domestic and sexual abuse to get protective orders

Illustration by Jordan Sellergren.

During a meeting with constituents on Saturday, Rep. Sandy Salmon claimed the two bills she introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives this month that would make it harder for victims of domestic and sexual abuse to get temporary protective orders were just attempts to “explore some options that curb abuses in the system.”

Salmon’s bill HF 2246 would increase the standard for getting a temporary protective order from “a preponderance of the evidence” to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The other bill, HF 2214, would strip judges of the power to schedule hearings on protective orders at their discretion, and would automatically terminate any order if a hearing on it didn’t occur within 15 days of the request for the order being filed.

Both bills only target temporary protective orders in cases of domestic and sexual abuse. None of the other types of protective orders available under Iowa law, such as ones for victims of stalking or harassment, would be affected.

“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,” Kristie Dozer, executive director of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, told Little Village after the bills were filed.

At the meeting in Denver, Iowa, Salmon was asked by one of her constituents to explain why she had filed the bills.

“What I was seeking to do with that would be to have us explore some options that curb abuses in the system, while still be able to protect women and children that find themselves in that kind of situation,” Salmon said.

The questioner pressed Salmon for a more complete answers, saying,

So, the rate of false reporting, if that’s what you’re talking about, is in the single digits. It’s a very small number, in any [studies] you look at. So, are we more concerned about that small percent of false reporting, or the 90-some percent of families that are being victimized? I’m not following.

Salmon explained she didn’t rely on any academic studies regarding domestic and sexual abuse, but instead relied on anecdotes.

Well, I had a constituent that deals with the issue quite a bit visit with me about it, and said there are definitely abuses in the system. And so I was hoping to, you know, get conversations started about how we could curb those abuses, yet still keep that protection in place.

Justin Scott, the founder and director of the Eastern Iowa Atheists, captured the exchange on video and uploaded it to YouTube.

Salmon’s claims at the meeting don’t match the facts.

If Salmon’s intention was to “explore some options,” she could have filed a bill directing the Iowa Department of Human Services to prepare a report on how the judicial system protects victims of domestic and sexual violence.

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Her claim that she just wanted to “get conversations started” doesn’t make sense either. All bills filed in the Iowa legislature have a section that explains the purpose of the bill. In her bills, Salmon doesn’t offer any reasons for the bills in those sections, and instead just describes the changes the bills would make to current law.

Little Village has reached out to Salmon by phone and email to discuss her bills, but has not yet received any reply.

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