A bill that would provide additional protections to victims of stalking and domestic violence could soon be heading to Gov. Sam Brownback.
This week, the Kansas Senate approved a version of the measure that the House passed last month. The bill will now head to conference committee before it could head to the governor’s desk.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation crafted House Bill 2613, which would make violations of protection from stalking and protection from abuse orders a level-6 felony. Such crimes are now misdemeanors.
The bill would also allow judges to extend the amount of time protection orders are valid, up to life. Orders are now valid for up to one year, but victims have to reapply every year — and potentially face their abuser in court.
Kristen Beaudette of Kansas has been fighting for years for such changes. The father of Beaudette’s daughter, Ty Barnett, has been in and out of prison since 2003 for physically abusing the girl. Barnett had also spent five years in prison after pleading guilty to torturing an infant in Salina in 1995. The infant later died.
Beaudette has changed her identity and done everything she can to hide from Barnett.
“I’ve jumped through so many hoops,” said Beaudette.
But Barnett is eligible for parole in June, and Beaudette fears having to confront him in court in order to apply for a new protection order.
If the bill becomes law, victims like Beaudette would possibly have to go through the court process only once.
KBI deputy director Kyle Smith — who helped write the bill — said the legislation would be a welcome change for victims and advocates.
“They deserve to have the system protect them,” Smith said.
In Douglas County in 2010, there were 295 filings for protection of abuse orders — which is filed when those involved had a previous relationship. Protection from stalking orders — filed when there is no previous relationship between the offender and victim — tallied 219 in the county 2010.
Both orders prevent someone from contacting the victim, who must prove repeated acts of harassment or abuse by the offender.