Law enforcement officials and advocates for domestic violence victims want lawmakers to fix a glaring legal loophole that leaves victims vulnerable to their abusers.

The law now says a temporary restraining order granted to a victim against an abuser is invalidated once a permanent protective order is issued by a judge. The problem, however, is that the protective order is not valid until it is served on the abuser, leaving the victim vulnerable if the abuser avoids being served.

Without either a temporary restraining order or protective order in place, confronting, calling or stalking the victim may not be considered a crime, said police Maj. Kurt Kendro.

House Bill 135 closes the loophole by requiring a TRO to stay in effect for up to 90 days if a protective order has not yet been served.

"Batterers are often aware of this gap in the system and are intentionally absent from (show cause hearings) and avoid service of (protective orders), leaving domestic violence survivors vulnerable," said Veronika Geronimo, interim executive director for the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "This bill would address the issue of batterers who evade legalities and manipulate the systems intended to protect the victim."

Kendro agreed.

"Respondents very often try to evade service," he told members of the House Human Services Committee. "This bill would close up that loophole."

The bill is a priority for both HPD and the Women's Caucus. The same bill was introduced last year and passed the Senate but failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

After approval by the House Human Services Committee yesterday, it now goes to the Judiciary Committee.

Kendro said he recalls an instance in the Kalihi district several years ago when an abuser got out of his car in front of a victim's house and stared at her and her young children.

A TRO was no longer in effect, and the protective order had not yet been served.

"She reported it, we located the guy, we arrested him, but then we had to cut him loose," Kendro said.

While there was no violence or physical abuse, the woman and her children were shaken deeply by the incident, he said.

Other advocates for domestic violence victims said there have been other instances in which victims have been attacked by their abusers before protective orders could be issued.

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