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Advocates: VA Safer With New Protective Order Law

April 19, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - The outrage generated by the murder of a University of Virginia lacrosse player has sparked a bipartisan effort to make it easier to get a protective order in the state. The measure, to overhaul the protective order procedure, was signed into law on Friday with a goal of protecting more Virginians from domestic or sexual violence. Republicans and Democrats worked together to write the legislation, which removes barriers for non-family members seeking to obtain protective orders.

Republican Delegate Rob Bell, a patron of the bill, says the old law put too much of a burden on those seeking protection.

"And the concern was that, by requiring people to take out a warrant, it actually made it harder for people to get protective orders. Maybe you might have just wanted him to stay away; you don't want to get him arrested."

Democratic state Senator George Barker was also a patron of the bill. He says all parties worked together following a murder, to try to prevent such a tragedy in the future.

"Certainly with the murder of the University of Virginia lacrosse player, it got a bit of additional attention, and we built a bipartisan consensus on the legislation."

Gena Boyle of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance says the group strongly supports the new law, which is expected to give victims of sexual violence and others access to an additional legal tool. She also notes that the measure was signed during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Individuals seeking help or those wanting more information on how to support a victim of sexual assault can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-838-8238. The service is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - VA