Attorney Daniel Somerfleck first joked that proposed legislation to create protections against harassment in Guam would only dramatically increase his caseload, before returning to a more serious note, adding that harassment is a common occurrence on the island and that the bill would allow his company to help victims. “who do not experience physical violence but rather psychological abuse.”
Somerfleck is the executive director of Guam Legal Services Corp. Disability Law Center. He testified Wednesday about Bill 314-36, a measure outlining the provisions of a harassment protection order in Guam. It was among a trio of bipartisan measures heard on Wednesday, all introduced by Sen. Mary Torres and all intended to extend or grant protections to victims of abuse, sex crimes or harassment.
“I can’t think of anything more intimidating or scary than having an individual watching every step a person might take throughout their day and then relaying it back to the individual. … But if there isn’t no threats, there’s very little I can do to help a victim,” Somerfleck said during his testimony on Bill 314. “With this law, it’s over.
Bill 314 incorporates into its definition of stalking any conduct that a stalker knows or ought reasonably to know would threaten, frighten or intimidate a person, even if the stalker did not intend to.
“It’s about this person who comes to court and says, ‘No, I wasn’t trying to intimidate him by sending him a hundred text messages. I was trying to seduce her. For lack of a better way to put it, it eliminates the bulls and it comes back to the problem,” Somerfleck said, later adding that Bill 314 addressed a need in the community.
Another measure heard Wednesday was Bill 312-36, which expands protections to maintain the safety and basic needs of abuse victims and children they may have in common with an abuser.
The other measure heard was Bill 313-36, which makes provisions for a protective order for a person who has been the victim of non-consensual sexual contact or non-consensual sexual penetration.
Somerfleck noted that Bills 314 and 313 would create more work for court marshals, whom Somerfleck said he depends on in the process of obtaining protective orders, as marshals find people to serve court documents on, making protection orders effective in the event of a breach.
“One group at the court that I support probably more than anyone else is our court marshals. … I would say probably more vital that an extra clerk would be an extra marshal because that’s going to increase our load work, no doubt about it,” Somerfleck said.
A statement from Torres’ office said all three bills received strong support from key government agencies.
“I realize that a protective order will not cure all ills. Successful intervention will require a comprehensive approach that includes proper training, enforcement and community education,” Torres said in the statement. “Yet a protective order is more than just a piece of paper. For many victims of abuse, it offers the most immediate forms of relief – and hopefully peace of mind.”