Women's Legislative Caucus bills sent to Governor-Measures address harassment and domestic violence

WOMEN'S LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS BILLS SENT TO GOVERNOR IGE

Measures address harassment in the workplace and domestic violence


Photo: Hawai'i State Senate Communications

Several bills supported by the bipartisan Hawaiʻi Women’s Legislative Caucus (WLC) were passed by the Legislature this session and have now been sent to Governor David Ige for his signature.

The bills focus on harassment in the workplace and domestic violence. The caucus had a larger package of bills at the beginning of the 2020 session, which addressed economic and family concerns, but due to the coronavirus pandemic many important bills were deferred until next year.

"I'm thankful that we were able to pass several important Women’s Legislative Caucus bills during this abbreviated session," said Representative Linda Ichiyama (District 32, Moanalua Valley, Salt Lake, Āliamanu). "These bills will help protect domestic violence survivors and support safer working environments for everyone."

HB 2054 HD1 SD1 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to enter into a nondisclosure agreement related to sexual harassment or assault, it also prohibits retaliation against an employee for disclosing sexual harassment or assault. This will help to break the silence that protects perpetrators and keeps victims in the dark.

HB 2060 HD1 SD1 provides that family courts may seal any record of a denied TRO or denied protective order; provided that these records shall remain accessible to law enforcement without a court order. Domestic violence perpetrators often file TROs against a victim as a method of retaliation or intimidation. Even though the TRO is ultimately denied, the victim still has it on her record, making it difficult to apply for jobs or housing. This bill would seal those records and help survivors make a new start for themselves.

SB 2638 SD2 HD3 helps to ease court congestion of domestic violence cases and ensure consequences for batterers by establishing a petty misdemeanor offense of abuse of family or household members and allowing a deferred acceptance of guilty plea for misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor abuse of family or household members offenses, provided that the defendant completes domestic violence intervention programs. It also makes consistent the types of documents accepted as proof of domestic or sexual violence victim status across various statutes so that a victim does not have to meet different standards.

Finally, although not part of the Women’s Legislative Caucus package, the Caucus also supported HB2425 HD1 SD1, introduced by Representative David Tarnas (District 7, North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala), which amends the definition of "domestic abuse" under Hawaiʻi’s insurance laws and restraining order statute to include “coercive control.” Many domestic violence victims face not only physical abuse but also emotional and psychological injury as well. This brings the statutory definition closer to the lived experience of victims.

"We are seeing a steady stream of requests for help from victims, who have followed the stay-at-home directive. This demand is a direct result of the pandemic," said Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC). "As in past years, we worked closely with the WLC on measures that will help survivors and meet their needs. We appreciate the Legislature’s support and their recognition of the challenges facing domestic violence victims and their families during these difficult times."

“The four bills addressing workplace safety and domestic violence on the Governor’s desk are particularly important to help protect women in these very trying times," said Senator Rosalyn H. Baker (District 6, South and West Maui). "The Women’s Legislative Caucus champions bills that lift up women and seek to protect our vulnerable community members. We congratulate all in the community, including organizations that help victims of domestic violence heal, for working with us and our male colleagues to pass these important bills."

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, help is available 24/7 from DVAC: text to (605) 956-5680 or chat online at www.domesticviolenceactioncenter.org.

The Women’s Legislative Caucus is a bipartisan group of all the female members in the State House and Senate, advocating for women, girls, and families in Hawaiʻi. WLC Co-Conveners for 2019-2020 are Senators Rosalyn H. Baker and Laura H. Thielen and Representatives Lauren Matsumoto and Linda Ichiyama.


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