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Protection orders in Missouri now include social media, pets

Protection orders in Missouri were strengthened under a new law signed by Gov. Mike Parson last week.

SB 71, which was sponsored by Sens. Elaine Gannon and Holly Rehder and Rep. Lane Roberts, grants judges the discretion to extend orders of protection for life; includes pets in protection orders; and expands the definition of stalking to include third-party sources, such as social media.

“Victims of domestic violence should not have to live in constant fear of their abuser’s retaliation, their beloved pet being harmed or having to reappear in court multiple times to renew the same order of protection,” Gannon said. “I hope this new law will empower victims to seek protection and enable families to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse.”

Previous state statutes allow protective orders for 180 days to one year. Full protection orders can be renewed for a maximum of just one year. A court can also include an automatic renewal for an order after one year. The respondent can, however, request a hearing at least 30 days before the expiration date.

Survivors Lisa Saylor and Janice Thompson traveled to Jefferson City to back the legislation, describing to lawmakers the dangers of returning to court again and again during a time when abusers know exactly where their victims are located and can intimidate, harass or harm them. They said victims also are left vulnerable by rules restricting them from carrying mace or firearms with them in the parking lot or courthouse.

The law also shields pets from those threatening or committing abuse against them. Gannon previously said pets were like family for many owners, comparing them to their children. Another provision would allow parents, juvenile officers and guardians to appeal any court decision altering the placement of a child.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice