Domestic abuse, sexual assault bills head to Branstad for signing

Bills update code, expand rights for survivors

A look towards the rotunda from a stairway at the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A look towards the rotunda from a stairway at the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Repeatedly using a technological device to locate, listen to or watch a person is now clearly identified as stalking tactic under Iowa law, following Gov. Terry Branstad signing House File 263 Thursday morning.

“House File 263 makes many important changes to ensure that habitual violent offenders are serving more time in prison and receive treatment before they are released,” Branstad said during the bill signing.

Tiffany Allison, from Des Moines, an advocate of the bill and domestic abuse survivor, said she was glad to see state code updated and legislators take a step in understanding challenges faced by domestic abuse survivors.

“If you haven’t been personally affected by domestic violence, it’s very hard to understand,” Allison said. “It’s very easy to say we have these things in place for victims, but they don’t really know what that feels like for victims until they reach out.”

The new law expands the definition of talking to include the “unauthorized placement of a global positioning device,” or GPS.

Further, it expands the definition to encompass when a stalker’s actions “cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated or threatened or to fear that the person intends to cause bodily injury.”

The law previously required the target of a stalker to fear bodily injury or death to themselves or an immediate family member.

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Additionally, the bill requires a person convicted of a third domestic abuse assault offense to serve one-fifth of the maximum sentence before being eligible for parole or work release. Inmates required to take part in domestic abuse treatment programs also must complete the program before becoming eligible for a reduced sentence.

Branstad said the changes to stalking and domestic abuse code were a priority for legislative action this year.

protective orders

A related bill, Senate File 401, was sent to the governor Wednesday after passing the House, 94-4.

The bill allows a sexual assault survivor to file for a civil protective order.

Beth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the coalition was glad to see the measure become law after the organization’s 10-year push to allow sexual assault survivors to petition for protective orders.

“Sexual assault protective orders are crucial for the healing and safety of survivors,” Barnhill said in a news release. “This bill, once signed into law, will have a life-changing impact for survivors across the state. Survivors deserve this.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

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