A bill that would provide additional protections to victims of stalking and domestic violence is headed 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 go to the governor’s desk.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation crafted the bill, which would make violations of protection from stalking and protection from abuse orders a level 6 felony. Such crimes are now misdemeanors.
The bill also would allow judges to extend the length of time that protection orders are valid, up to life. Orders are now valid for up to one year, and victims have to reapply every year — and potentially face their abuser in court.
Kansas resident Kristen Beaudette has been advocating for years to extend such orders. Beaudette was a victim of domestic violence and said having to face her abuser every year has been traumatic.
KBI deputy director Kyle Smith, who helped write the bill, said a new law 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 are sought 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 in 2010.
Both orders prevent someone from contacting the victim, who must prove repeated acts of harassment or abuse by the offender.