Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office
Governor, First Lady Beshear Join Legislators to Urge Passage of Bill to Protect Victims of Dating Violence

Press Release Date:  Tuesday, February 10, 2015  
Contact Information:  Kerri Richardson
Terry Sebastian

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear joined legislative leaders and advocates today to champion House Bill 8, which would create a unified, comprehensive system of civil protections in Kentucky for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Decades after Kentucky became one of the early states to offer civil remedies to people injured by domestic abuse, the state is now one of the last in the nation to extend those emergency protections to victims of dating violence.  With this legislation, Gov. Beshear said, “the state not only catches up to but surpasses other states in terms of comprehensive, consolidated and unified protections.”

“Creating a consolidated, unified system is critical to ensuring victims get the protection they need, at the moment they need it most,” Gov. Beshear said.  “One of the strengths of this bill is that it takes the best of what we have now in the way of our civil protective system, and makes that system work for every identified victim of these most serious crimes.”

Sponsored by Rep. John Tilley, of Hopkinsville, the bill streamlines the protective order process by creating a single “interpersonal protective order” for victims of domestic violence and abuse; dating violence and abuse; stalking; and sexual assault, allowing them to seek immediate civil protections that put the offender on notice that any further abuse or violation of the order is subject to arrest.

“This revised system would make it easier for the courts, law enforcement and victims alike, and it would expand coverage to many who feel vulnerable while their cases move through the legal system,” said Rep. Tilley, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.  “It’s time for Kentucky to reclaim its role as a national leader among the states when it comes to the civil protections these citizens deserve.”

More than 14 percent of high school students in Kentucky reported being the victim of dating violence, one of the highest numbers in the country, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Currently, victims of dating violence, sexual assault or stalking are limited to remedies within the criminal system, which, while important, often don't meet the needs of victims of intimate crimes.

Advocates point out that victims of intimate partner crimes often face a continued risk of abuse, because they may have the same social group; share common commitments or interests that cause them to come into contact with each other; or be hesitant to pursue criminal charges against someone with whom they have had a relationship.  A protective order is often enough to get an abuser’s attention and, faced with the possibility of arrest if they violate the order, may deter further abuse. It also provides a level of protection while their cases wind through the criminal justice system, if their abuser faces criminal charges.

Expansion of Kentucky’s protective order statute is critical because the law works, advocates said.  A recent University of Kentucky study found that 50 percent of the women who received a protective order reported that they experienced no violation of the order six months after obtaining it.

“Extending these protective orders is absolutely vital, both for victims and their families,” said First Lady Beshear, who has championed dating violence protections. “Nothing about this legislation discourages victims from pressing criminal charges, and for some women that is the route to take. But when we have another remedy that can also be lifesaving, we need to expand that option to all Kentucky victims.”

The bill:

  • Maintains all civil protective orders currently available to victims of domestic violence, and adds stalking to the definition of domestic violence and abuse;
  • Extends the same civil protections to victims of dating violence and abuse; sexual assault; and stalking;
  • Adds a provision allowing the temporary order to be expunged, if no final interpersonal order is handed down, and the individual seeking the expungement has had five years of clean domestic behavior;
  • Updates statutory language that has been in the Domestic Violence and Abuse Act (KRS 403) since its creation in 1984; and
  • Allows petitions for IPOs to be heard in either District or Circuit Court by setting concurrent jurisdictions for these orders.  The bill then provides a default jurisdiction to put domestic violence orders in family courts, where those courts exist, as is current practice. Importantly, however, the bill also allows the Supreme Court to approve rules to allow petitions to be filed in or transferred to a court other than the default jurisdiction. This gives local jurisdictions flexibility to choose their own protocols.

Under current Kentucky law, in order to obtain an Emergency Protective Order, an individual must be married to, cohabitate with or have a common child with the accused assailant.  For everyone else the only recourse for protection is to seek criminal charges.  “Unfortunately, that takes time, and time is something victims of dating violence and sexual assault – who don't fall into one of those categories above – don't have,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, of Hopkinsville, Senate Judiciary chairman.  “It takes weeks for a criminal case to truly get off the ground, months to progress and possibly a year or more to complete.  Meanwhile, the victim is left without much needed protection.”

“One of our roles as advocates is to assist survivors as they navigate the impact of violence and their sense of safety,” said Darlene Thomas, president of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence and executive director for GreenHouse17, a domestic violence program serving 17 counties in central Kentucky. “HB 8 is inclusive, comprehensive and sends a clear message to all survivors of interpersonal violence that they are worthy and they have a right to have access to a critical, proven safety tool.  I am encouraged by the Leadership of Governor and First Lady Beshear and with the tremendous bipartisan support across this Commonwealth.”

The bill sets a delayed implementation date of Jan. 1, 2016 to provide judges, clerks, prosecutors, law enforcement, attorneys and advocates time to adapt to the new system.