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New Law Makes Trespassing at Domestic Violence Shelters a Felony

Those who are subjects of domestic violence protection orders would be advised against trespassing at a domestic violence shelter if the person protected under the order is in the shelter. A new domestic violence law took effect earlier this month, providing that any such person who trespasses will be subject to felony charges.

According to the North Carolina Coalition against Domestic Violence, the law seeks to protect victims of domestic violence, as well as the occupants and employees of domestic violence shelters.

For Renee McGill-Cox, the residential services director for Domestic Violence Shelter and Services Inc., the law is a welcome tool to keep clients safe. She stressed the fact that individuals who have been granted a restraining order against someone should be able to seek safety in a shelter without fear that the person will be looking for them.

Ben David, district attorney for New Hanover County agrees, adding that the law also serves as a new tool for police and prosecutors. He points out that when individuals come home and find their partners and children gone, the situation can become volatile and violent quickly. The law extends protection not only to the partner, but everyone in the domestic violence shelter as well.

Many domestic violence shelters are anonymous in order to protect their residents and employees from these types of risks, according to Lillian Salcines Bright, an assistant district attorney for New Hanover County.

While Salcines Bright says subjects of domestic violence orders do not regularly trespass at domestic shelters, she maintains that the risk is real and is grateful for the protection of the new domestic violence law.

Source: Star News Online, "Victims of domestic violence get added layer of protection," Matt Tomsic, 1 December 2010

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