Advocates suggest changing TRO laws when children are involved

More training for police officers and changing state laws — those are just some of the plans in place to help protect domestic violence victims.

This comes two months after an incident involving an HPD sergeant that raised concerns. Since then, HPD has met with domestic violence victim agencies twice. Advocates say HPD is increasing training for current officers from one to two hours a year, and three to four hours for recruits.

But advocates would also like to change a law that was meant to protect children.

It’s a step that some domestic violence victims take to protect themselves: getting a temporary restraining order, or TRO, against their abuser. But not everyone uses a TRO for the right reasons.

“Temporary restraining orders often times are used as a determination of custody, who has custody of children, and so there was a group of parents that were concerned that TROs were being misused,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, (D-Liliha, Kalihi, Nuuanu).

Chun Oakland is the chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. She said the current law is to ensure the safety of any kids who may be involved.

She says if children see their parent being abused, that is a form of child abuse. So when someone files for a TRO, Child Protective Services is automatically notified when children are in the household.

“If there was alleged abuse, one of the spouses or partners alleged there was child abuse involved, that CPS would have to let the court know,” Chun Oakland said.

Because victims do not want CPS to be notified, they often times don’t file a TRO against their abuser.

“They do not want to get involved with child welfare. They are terrified of losing custody of their children. They’re terrified of custody being placed with the abuser,” said Marci Lopes with the State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Advocates are getting ready to ask lawmakers to change the statute so it’s not an automatic alert, allowing social service providers and judges to make that call instead.

Police officers and providers are already required to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

“Is that legislation or a statute you’d be open to listening to?” KHON2 asked.

“Definitely, if it’s not working,” Chun Oakland said. “If it actually prevents people or makes people feel that they shouldn’t be initiating a TRO, I don’t think that was the intent of the law.”

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