Gov. Sarah Palin on Tuesday signed a bill toughening penalties for crimes committed at domestic violence shelters.
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House Bill 213 was the first bill sponsored by Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau. The idea came from her experience working at Juneau's AWARE shelter for women fleeing domestic or sexual violence.
Doll was working as a volunteer coordinator at the shelter in 2005 when a woman sought refuge there, fearing violence at home. A man arrived at the shelter to forcibly retrieve the woman.
Doll saw the whole thing from a nearby road.
"He was screaming and hollering and just out of his mind," she said.
The man managed to force his way through the front door into the administrative offices, though not into the locked living quarters, she said.
The woman he was after agreed to leave with him, but later fled, Doll said.
"It was traumatic for everyone involved," she said.
Doll said Juneau police responded and arrested the man, but the light sentence he subsequently received led her to believe the laws protecting shelters and their residents and staff needed more teeth.
Under House Bill 213, crimes committed at domestic violence or sexual assault shelters are considered to have an aggravating factor, meaning judges would have the ability to hand down stiffer sentences.
Palin agreed the law needed a boost.
"People who come to domestic violence shelters need to know that they are safe and protected," Palin said.
"They need to know that they are not in harm's way when they come to a shelter," she added.
Doll said she was in the shelter later with a 50-year-old woman who feared she couldn't be protected if her husband came to harm her.
"She was checking the windows all the time, crying," Doll said. "It was a really scary situation."
Doll's bill eventually passed unanimously, but it helped that her first co-sponsor was Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, an influential Republican.
"That showed it was a safety issue and not a party issue," Doll said.
The other members of Juneau's delegation also were early sponsors.
The bill was Doll's first to be passed into law. The first-term representative from Juneau's Mendenhall Valley district was elected last November.
Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or email@example.com.