Reporting Of Domestic Violence In Marshall Islands Increasing

Women making use of streamlined court processes to seek protection

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 27, 2017) – Time will tell if it’s a new trend. But two domestic violence cases filed in the Marshall Islands High Court in the first two weeks of January suggest a spike in home-related violence.

Domestic violence reports filed in the High Court have risen the past two years, as women have made use of the court’s streamlined and customer-friendly process for filing requests for “temporary protection orders” against abusive spouses or boyfriends. As recently as 2014, no such domestic violence protection orders were sought by Marshall Islands women. The number increased to 10 in 2015 and rose to 12 last year.

Last year’s number of domestic violence requests was a record for the High Court, and the two filed this month indicate a surge. The national women’s organization Women United Together Marshall Islands issued at its annual meeting last November a new report on domestic violence, which concluded that 51 percent of women interviewed said they were victims of domestic violence.

The two new requests for protection filed in the High Court earlier this month were heard the same days on which they were filed by Judge Colin Winchester. After hearing the reports of violence, he issued temporary protection orders against men in both cases.

In one case, a 23-year-old woman complained about being beaten by her boyfriend. He is now required to stay 200 feet away from her, and she was given custody of their minor child. A few days after the initial order was issued, a follow up hearing was held on January 16 at which the judge extended his initial directive into a “permanent order of protection.”

The woman in the case was represented by Micronesian Legal Services attorney Tiantaake Beero and the man by Chief Public Defender Russell Kun.

The second case involved a report of a son being violent against his mother and father, who live next door to each other in a rural area of Majuro Atoll. This included making demands in the middle of the night and then kicking the parents’ door, causing damage, when the demands were refused by the parents. In the motion for a protection order, the mother said the violence is related to her son’s drinking alcohol.

Because the son and parents live in neighboring houses, Judge Winchester’s protection order set a boundary of 20-feet for the son to stay away from the parents’ house. “If the petitioner needs additional protection, she may ask the court clerk to schedule a hearing at which time this order may be modified of extended,” said Winchester in his order.

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