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The importance of expanding domestic violence protective orders



Previously in Rhode Island, domestic violence protective orders sought in Family Court covered only the common children of the plaintiff and the defendant. In order to also protect children who are not related to the defendant by blood or marriage, the plaintiff had to get a separate order in District or Superior Court. When Governor Gina Raimondo signed the “Protect All Children Act” earlier this year, that changed. Now, domestic violence protective orders sought in Family Court will include any children of the plaintiff who aren’t related to the defendant.

The new law is the product of advocacy and hard work by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) and SOAR (Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships).

Yesterday Governor Raimondo held a ceremonial signing of the bills, where domestic violence survivors spoke about the importance of the new legislation.

“As a mother, my children’s wellbeing will always be my number one concern,” said Robyn Giragosian, a survivor of domestic abuse and mother of five children. “Moving forward, this law will make an invaluable difference in the lives of survivors and their families in our state.”

Kristi Di Cenzo, SOAR member, said when trying to file a restraining order for herself and her children, she needed a separate restraining order – which required paying a fee of about $150 – because not all of her children were biologically related to her abuser.

Can we please ask a favor?

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“The way the statute was written, it added another barrier to leaving an abusive relationship… I was afraid for my children’s safety and my own,” said Di Cenzo. “All children deserve equal protection.”

“By listening to survivors and amplifying their voices, we will create a future without domestic violence,” said Tonya Harris, Executive Director of the RICADV.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence) and Representative Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, Providence) also spoke at the event.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.