Kentuckians will be safer, thanks to a pair of laws taking effect this week that strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence.
No longer can people be evicted or refused rental housing because of their status as a victim. The new law, which was sponsored by Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, R-Belton, also requires landlords to allow survivors who have long-term protective orders to replace locks on rental housing and break leases.
No one should be trapped in danger because they can’t afford to move. The new law will enable victims to better protect themselves and their children.
So will a new mandatory education and referral requirement that replaces an outdated reporting mandate.
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Data gathered by the University of Kentucky revealed troubling unintended consequences from the now-defunct reporting requirement, which was enacted in 1978 before local services and shelters were available statewide. Though well intended, the old law actually increased risk and discouraged victims from seeking help, according to surveys of victims.
Now, instead of an anonymous phone call or letter on state letterhead showing up at their home, suspected victims will personally receive information about local services that can help them and about how to access protective orders. The new requirement applies to about 20 professions that come into contact with survivors, including doctors, nurses, mental-health professionals, educators and police.
Domestic violence is a serious threat to public safety and health. Forty-five percent of Kentucky women will experience violence or stalking by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-three percent will be stalked, one of the nation’s highest rates, and 39 percent of Kentucky women will be sexually assaulted — higher than the national rate of 36 percent.
Kudos to Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a physician, for sponsoring an evidence-based bill that will not only protect victims of intimate-partner violence but will also educate a broad range of professionals about options for Kentuckians who are at risk.
Information about the new laws is available from the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence which will also be offering training and materials. Reach KCADV at www.kcadv.org.