KASAP helping as state implements new protective orders for victims of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault
04/21/2015 01:31 PM
Advocates for stronger protective orders in Kentucky finally got one of their wishes in March as the General Assembly passed dating violence, stalking and sexual assault protective orders.
Gretchen Hunt, a staff attorney for Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, said the 2015 legislative session was “great” though tense at times in the final hours of the session.
Hunt credits advocates for leading the cry for help for the dating violence bill over the years, and she praised leadership from the House and Senate judiciary committees, Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, for moving a bill through the legislature.
Tilley and Westerfield, Hunt said, went even further “broadening the bill” to include other protective orders for individuals.
“It’s not just protective orders for dating violence, but also protective orders for sexual assault and stalking,” she said. “Really addressing that scope of violence that really affects young people and older folks as well.”
Kentucky is the last state in the nation to offer protections for victims of dating violence. By-the-numbers, 47 percent of Kentucky women will experience some form of sexual violence, and the state leads the nation in stalking.
“Unfortunately these protections were long overdue, but they will keep so many men and women safe now across the commonwealth,” Hunt said.
The law won’t be fully implemented until January 2016. Hunt said as courts prepare to change their forms and local jurisdictions decide if cases of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault protective orders will be heard in district or circuit courtrooms.
“We have a lot of work to do to let victims know about their rights,” Hunt said. “I will be working with the bar association and local bar associations to do trainings out in the field and also to develop some materials for victims to know about their rights.”
KASAP is also going to be active as Auditor Adam Edelen and his office begins to account for the backlog of untested rape kits in the state — a move that came from a resolution offered in the Senate.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Sen. Denise Harper Angel … got the ball rolling and that Auditor Edelen took this up with such gusto,” Hunt said. “He has really shown leadership on looking at this issue and empowering law enforcement to really investigate sexual assault crimes.”
Hunt said the audit is not just looking at the backlog of the kits, “it’s really looking at a broader picture of how is rape investigated in the commonwealth?”
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