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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker files bill to overhaul domestic violence law

Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González

By The Star Staff

At-large Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González recently filed House Bill 2102 to amend the Law on Prevention of and Intervention with Domestic Violence.

The bill would strengthen prevention and intervention measures in cases of domestic violence and improve the operation of programs to effectively monitor aggressors.

“Gender violence, especially domestic violence, continues to be a serious problem in Puerto Rico. I recognize that the punitive approach alone is not enough to eradicate this problem, so it is necessary to implement public policies for early identification and rehabilitation of aggressors,” said the legislator, who is also running in the Popular Democratic Party primary for governor.

The proposed bill seeks among other things to establish that access to reeducation and retraining programs will be available only in cases where the aggressor admits responsibility for his actions and commits to changing them.

Additionally, it will establish a minimum term of two years for diversion programs, thus guaranteeing an adequate period for effective rehabilitation. Currently, domestic violence diversion programs do not have a minimum requirement.

“We seek to ensure that the aggressors referred to the diversion programs serve at least two years in the program to educate themselves and achieve a change in their violent behavior, something that does not happen at this time,” Ortiz González said. “The law establishes a maximum of three years in diversion programs, but not a minimum, and what we specifically want is for the aggressor to spend a considerable amount of time in them.”

The measure also establishes that if the accused person decides to go to trial on the merits of the charges, the option of benefiting from the diversion program will not be available if the person is found guilty.

Ortiz González included a provision in the bill that a board in charge of the rehabilitation of domestic abusers must send an annual report to both the governor and the Legislative Assembly demonstrating its work and recommendations, accounting for the number of applications received, licenses and certifications issued.

“It is surprising that until now we do not have certainty that the diversion programs related to the Domestic Violence Law work, since the Regulatory Board of Reeducation and Retraining Programs for Aggressors has been inoperative and has not produced any report on the programs,” added the chairman of the Government Committee in the island House of Representatives. “That is why we have included that in addition to sending these reports to the governor, the Legislative Assembly is aware of the work and guarantees that the inspection is carried out. It is of no use to us to declare a state of emergency due to gender violence if the agencies intended to supervise and be part of it do not fulfill their purpose.”

Ortiz González added that the filing and approval of the bill is crucial in the fight against gender violence in Puerto Rico since work must be done with the rehabilitation of aggressors to address the existing crisis. The legislator also called on Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to make the pertinent appointments to the Regulatory Board of Reeducation and Retraining Programs.

At-large Rep. José “Che” Pérez Cordero, meanwhile, asked the Senate to approve House Bill 1566, which orders the Office of the Women’s Advocate, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to create the School Certification Against Abuse and Gender Violence.

The measure was approved on June 6, 2023, with 47 votes in favor, and has been in the Senate’s Women’s Affairs and Education, Tourism & Culture committees since the 13th of that month.

“We are going on a year and this measure, which is important given the reality we are experiencing, is still stuck in the Senate process,” Pérez Cordero said. “I call on the senators of the Popular Democratic Party to evaluate this measure and bring it to a vote in the chamber. This bill is too important to stay in a committee for almost a year. The School Certification Against Abuse and Gender Violence is another tool in the fight in which we all, as a society, have to eradicate this terrible evil.”

According to the measure, the Office of the Women’s Advocate, along with the Education Department, would develop a curriculum in high schools where a group of young people will be certified on issues of domestic and gender violence so that they can have an impact on the school community through educational talks against such behavior.

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