Expanding protection for dating violence victims

The options aren’t viable: move in with your abuser, have their baby, or marry them. Right now, those are the only ways someone in an abusive dating relationship can get immediate protection in Kentucky. Domestic violence advocates and lawmakers in the state are trying to change that by changing the law. It’s a fight that’s taken years, and it still isn’t finished. 

A room full of supporters wearing purple for domestic violence victims took up the fight in Frankfort to expand protection again. “This is our 7th round, and we are hoping this is the victory lap today in our continued battle,” said Merryman House Domestic Violence Crisis Center Executive Director Mary Foley. She said things feel different this year. “For the first time, there seems to be some momentum that this is the right thing.”

This latest version of the bill has bipartisan support and would extend civil protections to victims of dating violence and abuse. It would add stalking to the definition of domestic violence, allow the temporary emergency protection order to be expunged under certain circumstances, and determine jurisdiction for the orders. Foley said, “It sends a message to everyone in our community that this is not acceptable.”

It’s a message Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts also supports. He said, “You get into this job because you want to help people as a prosecutor, and the way the laws are in Kentucky… our hands are handcuffed.” He said the only way he can help dating violence victims in his jurisdiction right now is after they’ve already been abused. “We’re really hoping to prevent any harm to the victim in that situation, and emergency protective orders allow us to do that.”

It’s an option advocates like Foley said they won’t stop fighting for, even if it doesn’t pass in fFanFrankforts time around. “We go put back on the boxing gloves, and we go back at it again,” she said. 

Batts and Foley have both been in Frankfort to advoaadvocatethis bill to become a law. Representative Gerald Watkins of McCracken County is on the house judiciary committee. He spoke Tuesday in support of the dating violence bill, and the committee voted unanimously in its favor. 

The bill has to come to a vote on the house floor next. If it passes there, it goes to the senate judiciary committee. Then, it heads to the senate floor for a vote. Finally, it then goes to the governor’s desk. 

Merryman House serves eight western Kentucky counties in the purchase area. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline set up for domestic violence victims. That number is 800-585-2686. 


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