Domestic violence for dating partners bill will also include provisions for sexual assault victims; Sexual assault bystander program working in Ky.

12/03/2014 03:33 PM

FRANKFORT — Victims’ rights advocates in Frankfort are gearing up for what they’re seeing as their best chance yet to pass a bill to provide dating partners and sexual assault victims protection orders.

There is also new research taking shape in some Kentucky high schools which shows promise at reducing instances of sexual assault by targeting social norms.

The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, or KASAP, is pushing a bill aimed at the ability for victims of domestic violence in dating relationships to seek a protective order as well as protective orders for victims of sexual assault and stalking.

Eileen Recktenwald, the Executive Director of KASAP, was recently recognized with the Gail Burns-Smith Award for her work in the state by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

Recktenwald has been working alongside other advocates in Kentucky on legislation that has been filed by Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The legislation is a new chapter of protective orders which would cover domestic violence victims, dating victims and sexual assault and stalking victims,” Recktenwald said.

“We feel this is extremely important, especially dating violence and sexual assault for us, because of all the sexual assault on campus. Sometimes that happens in dating relationships — sometimes not.”

Kentucky, Recktenwald said, is the only state that does not allow protection orders for dating partners.

The legislation has failed to pass the General Assembly in recent sessions, but Recktenwald said her group is making progress and lawmakers seem to be on board with the legislation this time.

“We feel very … hopeful that this is the year,” she said.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control correlated data via the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey — the first of its kind — on the prevalence of sexual violence and stalking in Kentucky and found that as of 2010 Kentucky was exceeding the national averages for lifetime prevalence of abuse.

As of 2010,

  • 345,000 Kentucky women have been raped.
  • 812,000 Kentucky women have experienced sexual violence.
  • 313,000 men in Kentucky have experienced sexual violence.
  • 420,000 women in Kentucky were victims of stalking.
  • 638,000 Kentucky woman have been raped, stalked and or experienced physical violence by an intimate partner.

A recent Rolling Stone article has brought national attention to the issue of sexual assault at college campuses across the country.

“It reflects what’s going on in universities. There’s quite a few of them at this point who are being investigated for Title IX problems, because they don’t have services for sexual assault victims on their campus that are sexually assaulted on their campus. They don’t respond well to sexual assault victims,” Recktenwald said.

The scope of the problem in Kentucky, Recktenwald said is “very large, but very under reported.”

“About one in 10 is what we think report any kind of sexual assault — not only on campus,” Recktenwald said, adding that things are looking up because of involvement from the White House.

While Title IX mandates reporting of sexual assaults the data is still hard to come by. KASAP staff attorney Gretchen Hunt said there are currently no Kentucky schools under investigation by the office for civil rights but we are likely experiencing the same problems.

“It’s really important to say it’s not just a fraternity problem or university problem or a sports team problem. What this points to is a larger cultural issue throughout the United States where victims of sexual assault often do no get justice in our courts and in these administrative hearings,” Hunt said.

To change the culture of rape on campus and other sexual assaults, the White House and some Kentucky schools are experimenting with different bystander intervention programs.

One bystander intervention program attempted in Kentucky is Green Dot. The program just wrapped a five-year random intervention trial conducted by the University of Kentucky on the effectiveness of the program, and the results were drastic.

The idea behind Green Dot is to target change agents within the school — those students that other students listen to, and KASAP teaches those students what sexual assault looks like when it’s about to happen and stop it — safely.

The UK study, according to KASAP, showed Green Dot reduced sexual violence perpetration by 60 percent in intervention schools and total violence by 40 percent in those schools.

“We think that we can change the social norm to make sure that folks don’t tolerate sexual assault and they recognize it when they see it,” Recktenwald said.


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