Dating Violence’s Alarming Prevalence

The sun does not shine so bright on old Kentucky homes for victims of dating abuse and violence. In the commonwealth where the state song’s second line until 1986 included a reference to “darkies” (then changed to “people”), a bill amending state statutes on domestic violence orders to extend the right to seek protective orders to victims of dating violence has, once again, been declined a hearing for consideration by the Republican-controlled State Senate Judiciary Committee. Kentucky’s Democratic-majority state House had approved the same bill by an overwhelming margin for a second straight year earlier in the legislative term. 

“It’s not going to come up this time,” the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Jensen (R-London, KY) said. “I think there’s a lot of mixed feelings about it.” Jensen said he and other members have concerns about expanding the grounds for protective orders and believe criminal laws might be a better means of dealing with abusive partners in dating relationships. Opponents of the bill are concerned that judges would have a difficult time determining if and to what extent a dating relationship exists and see criminal laws as a better means of dealing with the issue. 

Dating violence is a pattern of behavior in which one person uses threats of or actual physical, sexual, or emotional abuse to control his or her partner. This form of violence can include verbal abuse, written attacks, excessive communication via texts, emails, or phone calls, use of weapons, the destruction of property, stalking, and other forms of intimidation. Dating violence is any behavior in a romantic or intimate relationship that is intended to establish an unequal balance of power and control and includes verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, economic, and social harm to one or both people is teen dating violence. Dating violence is any acts committed by one partner against another in a dating or intimate relationship that seek to degrade or injure the other partner and which take away or destroy the aspects of a good, healthy relationship. 

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia already have laws on the books allowing dating partners in abusive relationships to seek protective orders. Unmarried women make up half of all intimate partner violence victims, according to the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, Young women ages 16 to 24 suffer the highest rates of relationship violence. 

Ten states received failing grades of Ds and Fs in Break The Cycle’s 2010 State Law Report Cards for handling reported teen dating violence and abuse cases. The exclusion of minors from obtaining protective orders earned automatic failing grades for Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia. Minors may obtain protective orders in a few of these states, but state laws do not specify that protective orders can be sought against minor abusers. Six states plus the District of Columbia received “A” grades, leaving 34 states proving barely adequate to poor support for youth victims of dating violence and abuse. 

Kentucky State Law defines domestic violence and abuse as “physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault.” Kentucky state laws (1) allow persons who are victims of domestic violence and abuse to obtain effective, short-term protection against further violence and abuse in order that their lives will be as secure and as uninterrupted as possible; (2) To expand the ability of law enforcement officers to effectively respond to situations involving domestic violence and abuse so as to prevent further such incidents and to provide assistance to the victims; (3) To provide peace officers with the authority to immediately apprehend and charge for violation of a protective order any person whom the officer has probable cause to believe has violated an order of protection issued under KRS 403.740 or 403.750 and to provide courts with the authority to conduct contempt of court proceedings for these violations; (4) To provide for the collection of data concerning incidents of domestic violence and abuse in order to develop a comprehensive analysis of the incidence and causes of such violence and abuse. 

Kentucky Senate Bill 49, following on HB35 approved by the full House, amends Kentucky State Law to add “persons who are or have been in a dating relationship” and any children to the protected family members and unmarried couples already covered by the state domestic violence and abuse statutes. Kentucky SB 49 also adds to state law the definition of “dating relationship” as “romantic or intimate [in] nature, but does not include a casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context.” How will the distinction between intimate partners and casual acquaintances be made? SB 49 states: “The existence of a dating relationship shall be determined based on consideration of the length and nature of the relationship and the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.” 

Domestic violence and abuse is not merely a women’s issue. Domestic violence is a human rights issue. Everyone should feel safe and never fear the person he or she loves. Domestic violence and dating violence does not just affect women. It affects the men who care about them, their families, their friends, their coworkers, and their communities. It may be your sister, your daughter, your friend, your coworker, your neighbor. 

There should not be any shame coming forward to get help. People need to stop blaming the victim. Those critics need to cease from asking “Why doesn’t that person leave the relationship?” and instead create accountability, questioning “Why does the abuser continue to get away with it?” 

No state, no city, no community is immune to dating violence and abuse. Dating violence cuts across all ages, ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds. Teen dating violence is a rising problem in every corner of the country and around the world. It is happening in every high school and in every social clique. Relationships are difficult, especially first ones in young peoples’ lives. Sometimes it is hard to recognize the boundaries between healthy and abusive interactions. But it is not the victim’s fault; it is never the victim’s fault.

by Christopher Argyris

About One Billion Rising North Bay

A grassroots movement to raise awareness to end violence against women and girls.
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