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Most Kentuckians Think Unmarried Couples Should Be Able to File Protective Orders, Poll Says

Kentucky state Capitol
Kentucky state Capitol

A majority of Kentuckians think that the state's domestic violence laws should include unmarried couples who haven't live together and those who don't share a child, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll  found that 80 percent of Kentucky adults favor changing current Kentucky law to allow people to file a domestic violence protection order against a current or former dating partner regardless of their living arrangements or whether they have children together.

Currently, state law only allows protection for family members, members of an unmarried couple with a child in common and members of an unmarried couple who are living together or have formerly lived together.

Sharon Currens, executive director of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, said there is a gap in the people the law is providing safety to. She said without the protective order, a person has to be battered before they can receive assistance.

"The protective order, especially in dating violence cases, lets us intervene early on in the violence and we know that that's when we have the best chance of ending the violence," Currens said.

Both men and women highly favor the idea at 76 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

The amendment to current law had strong support throughout the state, according to the poll. And across political lines, 84 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of independents think the law should be revised.

Currens said she expects that a bill will be filed when the session reconvenes in February. The draft includes dating partners among the class of people allowed to obtain domestic violence protective orders.

Currently, if a person doesn't meet the requirements of the law, they can file criminal complaints, but Currens said people are not easily charged and the complaints may not be enforced.

"We know that protective orders are effective and they save money. I think they are an important tool that we need to make available." she said.

The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. (The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is part of the partnership for WFPL’s Next Louisville: Community Health project.)

The poll was conducted between Oct.  8 and Nov. 6. Researchers from the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati interviewed 1,597 adults throughout Kentucky by telephone.

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