Being a father has caused me to think about one of the most basic rights many of us take for granted — waking up each day with a sense of well-being. It may not seem fragile until we are startled into the reality that our well-being can be very fleeting.
This week I shared the podium with two mothers who know the pain of that reality all too well. Each of their daughters was murdered by a man she had been dating.
Pat Byron and Diana Ross joined me in Frankfort to bravely speak out in support of a bill I have sponsored to protect victims of violence, House Bill 498. I couldn't help but wonder if Pat and Diana have enjoyed one moment of well-being since the day their daughters were killed.
Passage of HB 498 will cast a stronger safety net for Kentuckians. In 46 other states, a victim of violence in a dating relationship can get a protective order. Not in Kentucky. In Kentucky, a victim must be married to, live with or share a child with the accused to seek protection with a protective order.
Individuals may choose not to live together outside of marriage due to their morals, faith or in consideration of their children from other relationships or other family members. This does not mean that they should sacrifice their sense of well-being should they fall victim to violence from their partner. We want to expand the law to protect individuals who choose not to live together outside of marriage due to their morals, faith, or in consideration of their children from other relationships or other family member.
The Mary Byron Project is leading the effort to advocate for passage of HB 498 as part of the organization's mission to address the root causes of domestic violence. The organization is named for Mary Byron, who was a victim of dating violence. Her death led to creation of automated crime-victim notification services that are now in use around the nation, including VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday).
In my work with the project, I've learned that the civil-court process for protective orders can be an important tool in breaking the cycle of violence in a relationship. Perpetrators are ordered to have no contact with the victim but can access treatment and intervention. Relationships can be repaired, and the offender has no criminal record that could affect his (or her) employment.
Pursuing a protective order in the civil courts instead of filing criminal charges also helps the commonwealth avoid the costs of prosecution and incarceration.
As a legislator, it is my duty to ensure all Kentuckians enjoy a fundamental sense of well-being. As a father, it's an imperative.
The deaths of Amanda Ross and Mary Byron have moved us to action in the past. Our work today must be proactive before another parent knows the pain of the loss of a child. I hope my colleagues in the General Assembly will join me in doing their part with a vote of support for HB 498.