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KY Rape Survivor Pleads for Dating Violence Protections

March 2, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - With few days left in this year's legislative session, domestic violence advocates believe there's enough time for lawmakers to expand Kentucky's protective order laws to include dating partners. 24-year-old Meghan Wright, a five-year survivor of date rape, speaks often about college campus safety and response to violence.

During a state capitol rally Tuesday, Wright said she would have benefited from a bill now in the state legislature allowing those in dating relationships to seek protective orders from abusers.

"For me on a college campus, unless there was a direct threat made, there was nothing I could do. There's nothing I could do to feel more protected and feel more secure. The only thing I could do was try and avoid him. You don't go to class, you don't eat in the cafeteria - like, that's not logical. "

House Bill 35, sponsored by Bowling Green Democrat Jody Richards, extends domestic violence protective orders to dating couples age 18 and older. They currently apply only to those who are married, divorced, living together at present or formerly, or share a child. The state House approved the measure last month; it's now awaiting consideration by a Senate committee.

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws already on the books allowing dating partners in abusive relationships to seek protective orders. Wright is puzzled as to why Kentucky hasn't followed suit.

"As a survivor I want to say, 'What are you worried about, what harm are you worried coming from it; you're worried there's another side to this?' Because the side I see is that somebody who's accused is not going to be able to be approached by the person that accused them. And somebody that's victimized is not going to be able to be approached by their victimizer. "

According to the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, unmarried women make up half of all intimate partner violence victims. And, young women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of relationship violence. Wright's goal is to put a human face to casually repeated statistics.

"It's so easy to read a piece of paper that says one in six women will be assaulted in their lifetime, but if you stand up there and you say, 'I'm the one, I'm the one of the one in six,' then they can't ignore you."

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.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY