If a woman is assaulted by her husband, does Kentucky law allow her to seek emergency protection? Absolutely. If she is threatened, let’s say by having an assault rifle fired through her front window , is she eligible for emergency protection? Again, the answer is an unqualified yes. What if the rifle is fired by her ex- husband, the father of her child, or her current or former live- in partner? Is she eligible for emergency protection? The answer is still yes.
What about Victoria Barbour? She was in a relationship with a man for nine years. When she ended the relationship, he spent two days shooting at her home with an AK-47 rifle. Was Victoria Barbour eligible for emergency protection? Absolutely not. Why? Because Kentucky is one of a small minority of states that doesn’t allow people who have dated, but have chosen not to live with their partner, to obtain protective orders that will keep them safe from violence.
This critical gap in our domestic violence statute ignores the crucial fact that it is the relationship the precipitates the violence, not the domicile of the parties involved. The threat to Victoria Barbour was certainly no less real that it would have been if she had lived with her partner. Yet thousands of Kentucky women like Victoria are denied emergency protection each and every day because our statute ignores the danger they face. So the college student who is assaulted by another student she has dated cannot obtain a protective order. The older woman who has returned to the dating world after the death of a spouse is not eligible for protection unless she is prepared to live with a dating partner, regardless of her faith or morals. The woman who, like Victoria, refuses to live with a man out of wedlock because of her children cannot access protection.
It is time to close this gap and protect all victims of domestic violence. The Mary Byron Project is spearheading an effort to change Kentucky’s law and bring it in line with the 41 other states who recognize the danger to dating partners. In the coming weeks, we will be updating our blog with more details about the progress of our efforts and the hurdles we face. And we will be asking for you to help, by supporting our efforts and making your voice heard. Hopefully, 2012 is the year history will be made.
Stay tuned . . .