The 2015 Kentucky General Assembly created a new chapter of state law to establish civil orders for protection of victims of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Known as Interpersonal Protective Orders, the court measures can be obtained by victims of these crimes or by an adult on behalf of a minor who qualifies. That means a parent can obtain a protection order for a son or daughter being stalked or who has experienced a violent dating situation.
This kind of protective order is long overdue and the General Assembly wisely created the new law. Before this, victims who did not have a child with the abuser or who never lived with the abuser could not get protective orders, leaving teenagers and others who experienced dating violence with little recourse.
The difficult part of any protective order is enforcement. With the order in place, schools will need to expand their awareness and develop policies to help the victims.
Schools already need to know what parents or relatives can and cannot pick up children thanks to other court orders as well as any Title IX accommodations required. This expands the number of people on both sides of the protective order who have classes together, pass each other in the hall or share a lunch period.
The Kentucky Bar Association gave the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence $34,000 to train professionals who work with victims about using IPOs. The coalition will help school administrators to understand and manage IPOs for K-12 and post-secondary students.
An online manual for school administrators was produced by the University of Kentucky Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women and the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It lists signs of dating violence, sexual assault or stalking for schools and students to recognize.
It is a valuable resource for parents and guardians as well and is available at www.uky.edu/PR/News/IPO_Resource_Document_K-12_Version.pdf
Recognizing early signs of dating violence or stalking being inflicted on your child or by your child can allow for early intervention and ideally help can be sought for both sides.
Despite the majority of victims being female, this is not a gender-specific problem.
Victims of teen dating violence are at a higher risk for depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and other domestic violence. If the victim of dating violence grows up thinking this is how relationships happen, it continues an unfortunate cycle.
Passing laws to protect victims is a substantial step, but prevention must be a focus as well in order to protect the next generation.