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House-Approved Kentucky Dating Violence Bill Heads To Full Senate

Senate President Robert Stivers, right

Kentucky is one step closer to providing victims of dating violence with the same protections that married victims have.

A Senate committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow people to file an interpersonal protective order against an abusive dating partner. The bill has passed the House and now heads to the full Senate.

Kentucky is the only state that doesn't offer civil protection to victims of dating violence. Currently only couples who are married, share a child or cohabitate can file protective orders against their partners.

Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat, said the bill can solve problems quickly without entering the criminal justice system.

“More than half of those who enter this system, the violence stops with a civil protected order,” Tilley said. “In other words, criminal sanctions aren’t necessary. Sometimes the victim doesn’t want to go through the criminal justice process.”

The protective order is a civil, rather than criminal provision. According to the Associated Press, police would be notified when an IPO is issued and violators could be arrested immediately without a warrant.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, has argued against similar bills in past sessions, saying that victims would already be protected under criminal law. Stivers voted in favor of the bill on Tuesday, but still warned that the protective order might provide only a false sense of security.

“I don’t want there to be unjustified belief that a piece of paper will keep someone away if they’re willing to scale up three stories through a private window into a bedroom,” Stivers said

The bill passed with no nay votes, but Sen. Robin Webb, a Democrat from Grayson, didn’t vote for the bill. She said that more needs to be done to address people who commit dating and domestic violence.

“That perpetrator is really the one that needs some help and really needs to stop the cycle,” Webb said. “Because if he or she can’t find another victim, they’re going to go create one.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.