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Improving Protection for VA Domestic, Sexual Violence Victims

June 20, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. - New and existing laws about protective orders for victims of domestic, sexual and intimate-partner violence are on the docket at a conference which begins today in Richmond.

Law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys and victim advocates are attending. They'll hear from people such as Claire Dunn, Alexandria's division chief for sexual-assault and domestic-violence programs. She says the focus of the event is raising awareness so that people around the state will know how to help victims of these crimes.

"To make sure that all of the allied professionals that work with sexual assault and domestic violence victims are aware of all of the relief that is available in Virginia for victims."

Dunn says there have been some major changes in terms of who can file for a protective order and how they go about it. For instance, a new law that went into effect in Virginia last year allows a wider variety of people to file for a protective order in cases of abuse.

"Previously to this law being passed, only people who were in a family or household-member relationship with the abusive party were able to access protective orders in Virginia."

Now, she says, victims do not have to have any kind of relationship with the perpetrator to file for a protective order, a change she believes has been helpful in her jurisdiction.

People who need information about protective orders can contact the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

The three-day conference will feature national speakers as well as experts from around the state, and will include information about human trafficking, sexual assault and violence pertaining to minors, immigrants and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. Sessions will continue through Friday at the Sheraton Park South hotel, 9901 Midlothian Turnpike.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA