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Nebraska bill aims to extend protection orders for victims of violence

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 4:42 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Calls for protecting victims of abuse and domestic violence are growing louder. On Friday, the state’s judiciary committee will hear about a proposed bill set to increase protection for those victims.

Angie Lauritsen is a survivor of childhood sexual, mental, and physical abuse.

When she was just 14 years old—Angie, her mother, and her brother decided to leave their abuser.

She knows first hand how difficult that can be.

“When victims are in crisis mode, services are provided, suggestions are made to you on what and how best to keep you safe during this transition time. A protection order is one of those items,” says Angie Lauritsen, Survivors Rising legislative committee chair.

That’s where LB118 comes in.

Right now, Nebraskans can only seek a protection order for one year. Once that year is up, victims are not notified by the courts, and experts say often they are not in a good financial spot or place of healing to continue the court process.

Lawmakers like State Sen. Adam Morfeld are trying to change that by extending the length of the protection order to five years.

“The reason I introduced this bill was to make sure we that we strengthen protection orders for victims of harassment, domestic abuse, and sexual assault to reduce the barriers to getting those orders,” said Morfeld, who represents Dist. 46 in Lincoln.

One of the biggest barriers in the way: Victims have to get the protection order notarized.

“This can present a safety risk as well. We have clients who are fleeing from a violent situation and weren’t able to grab their id when they left. Now if they go back to the house they risk re-entering a dangerous place or arousing suspicion of their abuser that they are leaving,” says Katie Welsh, Women’s Center for Advancement legal director.

This bill would eliminate that.

Those who work closely with victims say changes to the current law would be a great starting place to further protect those in need of help.

“The issues existed before. They continue after this but we hope this could potentially provide some immediate relief,” says Christon MacTaggart, project director for the Women’s Fund of Omaha Freedom from Violence.

Those in support of the bill say they are prepared for some push back from those that think changing protection orders would create room for people to frivolously apply for an order.

The strict standards would not change under this bill and a judge would still have to sign off on the protection order.

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