Kentucky bill expanding protections for dating violence victims signed into law
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed a dating violence bill into law Thursday afternoon at the state capital.
“There's not a bill that is more important to the commonwealth than the passage of House Bill 8,” said Gov. Beshear.
House Bill 8 allows victims to take out emergency protective orders, or EPOs, against their abusers or stalkers. Before this law passed, that kind of protection only applied to married couples, those who have children together, or people who live together.
It's legal action, Pat Byron wishes would have been around sooner.
“Our daughter, Mary Byron was murdered on her 21st birthday in 1993 by her ex-boyfriend,” Byron told WDRB News.
Lawmakers say they've been working on a policy like House Bill 8 or some version of it for the last nine years.
“The bill has been a long time coming. It's here now, but as we all know, our job is not finished. Violence and the threat of violence are unfortunate, tragic realities for too many Kentuckians,” said Gov. Beshear.
Representative John Tilley says one in three women in the country will be victimized by stalking, rape, or some kind of violence.
“It should all strike us that we still have a lot of work to do. We're the last state to join. We are now, no longer last but once again a leader because of a well-crafted bill,” said Rep. Tilley.
Until the bill passed, lawmakers say the only way a victim of dating violence could get protection, was to file a complaint, which would take weeks to months before it was even heard in court. Now the protection is immediate.
“That 24 hour protocol exists for the EPOs and DVOs (domestic violence orders) now so there's always a judge ready to take that petition and hear it and have a hearing on that petition and grant the protective order or not,” said Senator Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville).
Despite the milestone this bill makes in protecting victims of dating violence, advocates say there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Education, prevention of other kinds that I'm sure are out there, and awareness,” said Byron.
House Bill 8 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016 to allow judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement time to adapt to the new policy.
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