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Jun-03-2009 10:37printcomments

House Approves Three Bills to Protect Vulnerable Victims

"We can and should do more for the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault" -State Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany)

Victim of abuse shadow image

(SALEM, Ore.) - The Oregon House today approved a package of Senate bills all designed to protect victims and improve the abilities of local community organizations to aid and protect victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking.

The bills – SB 839, SB 928 and SB 220 – all passed with strong bipartisan support, 57-0.

State Rep. Judy Stiegler (D-Bend) said SB 928 is designed to help victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking by protecting them in the workplace from being fired or disciplined because they were a victim.

The bill also requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to protect employees and it protects employers by ensuring the accommodations do not constitute an undue hardship.

“In the midst of these tragedies, where women are being victimized and scared for their safety, it’s simply wrong that employers today could victimize them further by firing them or laying them off,” said Stiegler, an attorney who has worked with domestic violence victims.

“This makes it clear that employers cannot simply sweep these problems aside and further endanger these vulnerable victims.”

SB 839, was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Chip Shields (D-Portland). The bill allows victims of human trafficking – the sale of typically young people into forced labor prostitution – to be able to access programs that will protect their identity in the state’s address confidentiality program.

“These are particularly vulnerable victims who have been snatched up and forced into dangerous situations. We must do everything possible to protect them once they have escaped the clutches of these human traffickers,” said Shields. “This is another common sense bill to protect victims.”

The final bill of the package – SB 220 – allows the Attorney General to use grant funds from the federal government and other sources to provide help to community-based programs that help domestic violence victims.

The funds go through the Attorney General’s Crime Victims Services Division and allow the division to use funds generated by the Oregon Domestic and Sexual Violence Services Fund.

“We can and should do more for the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault," said State Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany), who carried the bill on the floor on behalf of the Attorney General’s office.

“By allowing the AG’s office to distribute grants to local community based organizations, we can do a much better job on providing options and protection for victims.”

House Speaker Dave Hunt said the bills reflect the House priority to find new and better ways to protect the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It’s not just prison time for the perpetrators of these crimes that makes victims safe and whole again. It’s our ability to provide them protection and assistance; to make sure they can continue to work in a safe environment and to ensure there are community resources available for them to access,” said Hunt (D-Clackamas County). “These three bills offer exactly those benefits to the victims of domestic violence."

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