Torres bills would protect survivors of sexual assault

Senator Mary Camacho Torres (PNC file photo)

A pair of measures to protect survivors of sexual assault were heard during a public hearing last evening at the Guam Congress Building.

Both bills were introduced by Senator Mary Camacho Torres.

Bill 102 provides civil remedies for victims of “revenge pornography,” allowing them to fight back for damages.

Bill 162 would terminate the parental rights of rapists if found by “clear and convincing evidence” of committing sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child.

At the hearing Public Defender Service Corporation Executive Director Stephen Hattori   testified that Bill 162 could increase much-needed federal funding to Guam.

Under the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act (U.S. Public Law No. 114-22), states with laws that allow mothers to seek parental rights termination of their rapists receive additional funds in their Stop Violence Against Women (STOP) and Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) formula awards.

“Termination of a sexual assailant’s parental rights will permit the mother and child to proceed with their lives without the burden of dealing with a criminal who by chance happens to be the biological father,” said Stephen Hattori in support of Bill 162. “This is a policy decision that many of the States in the Union have implemented.”

Senator Torres’ other measure, Bill 102, would provide civil recourse for victims whose intimate images were shared without their consent—enabling them to recover up to $10,000 or an amount equal to the economic and non-economic damages caused by disclosure of the images, whichever is greater.

Torres stressed that while criminalization of revenge pornography is an important deterrent (Guam Public Law 33-171), it is deeply inadequate on its own due to the clear economic consequences of victimization.

“Bill 102 brings balance to a matter this Body criminalized years ago,” said Torres. “While we can’t put a price on depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress—we can say that unemployment, relocation expenses, and psychological support all add to the crippling cost of being a victim.”

If enacted, Bill No. 102-35 would not only establish a cause of action for the unauthorized disclosure of intimate images, but also outline procedures that allow victims to protect their identity in court proceedings—eliminating the fear of further notoriety which often deters survivors from pursuing legal remedies.

“Many states protect the right of individuals to keep certain private information out of the public eye,” said Senator Torres, citing the Uniform Law Commission. “This act simply recognizes that sexually explicit imagery is a form of private information deserving of similar protection.”