Politics

Trump signs Alaska senator’s domestic violence bill into law

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a bill crafted by Sen. Dan Sullivan that will expand the senator's program in Alaska that encourages attorneys to offer free help to victims of domestic violence.

The law requires chief judges across the country to hold events promoting "pro bono" — free — legal services for survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. Twice in the next four years, judges will hold these events in areas with high populations of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

In terms of sexual assault and domestic violence nationally, the "statistics are horrific," Sullivan said in a statement. "Roughly 25 percent of American women will be victims of domestic assault in their lifetime. On average, every day in our country, three women are killed by a current or former partner."

But research shows that getting help from an attorney can improve chances of victims to "break the cycle of violence," Sullivan said.

Studies have shown that low-income victims of domestic violence often have difficulty obtaining legal services, and that having an attorney makes someone far more likely to obtain a protective order, according to the bill. The law cites a survey of assistance programs by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which found that on one day in 2014, more than 10,000 requests by victims for services, including legal help, went unmet.

Sullivan held several pro bono summits when he was attorney general for Alaska, and modeled his Senate bill after that program. He was active in launching Alaska's "Choose Respect" campaign and hoped to spread the effort nationally.

The Senate passed Sullivan's so-called "POWER Act" last year, and before that in 2015. It passed the House in July with bipartisan support under a "voice vote," in which individual votes were not cast. The House made some small changes — judges holding the events rather than U.S. attorneys — and the Senate agreed in August.

"Our hope is that the POWER Act will help create an army of lawyers to defend victims and survivors of abuse," he said.

Trump signed the final bill into law Tuesday.