Marshall Islands domestic violence victims get ‘permanent’ protection

MAJURO – Women in the Marshall Islands keep using the High Court to gain protection against abusive partners or relatives, with seven civil cases filed so far this year.

But in contrast to the majority of domestic violence cases that are handled by the High Court, the latest two have resulted in “permanent” protection orders, banning males from ever approaching or threatening the women in any way.

High Court records in Majuro show that the majority of women who obtain “temporary” protection orders against abusive partners later reconcile with their husbands or boyfriends and do not seek permanent protection orders.

The two latest domestic violence cases in Majuro, however, resulted in permanent orders being issued that instruct men in both incidents to stay away from the women who filed the motions for court protection orders.

The most recent request to the High Court for a temporary protection order was filed by a 37-year-old local resident, who was represented by Micronesian Legal Services attorney Tiantaake Beero-Sexton. Filed earlier this month, it is Majuro’s sixth domestic violence protection civil case of the year, and seventh overall including one from Ebeye Island.

The woman reported that the 52-year-old man was drunk and beat her, resulting in a bloody nose, black eyes and other injuries. The motion filed in court seeking protection help said he had beaten her many times in the past. On the same day as the motion was filed, Chief Justice Carl Ingram granted a temporary protection order, which required the man to stay 200 feet away from the victim. At a follow up hearing last week, Ingram upgraded the directive to a “permanent” protection order, requiring the man not to threaten or commit violence against the victim, including not communicating with her by telephone or electronic means.

At the High Court hearing, both the man and woman signed an agreement that the man would stay away from the woman and not communicate with her in the future. The man and woman had been living together “on and off” since 2005, according to information in the court file.

In an unrelated case, a teenager earlier in the year had sought and received a temporary protection order against her biological father for a series of physical assaults. At a follow up hearing, both the girl and her father were present. The girl was represented by Beero-Sexton and the man by Assistant Public Defender Karotu Tiba. Both sides agreed to a permanent protection order being issued.

Judge Colin Winchester confirmed that the man must not threaten or commit violence against the girl, must not come within 200 feet of the girl and the house where she lives and must not communicate with her in any way.

With seven domestic violence protection orders to date, the Marshall Islands is on a pace to equal or surpass the record of 16 set last year.