A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand October 17, 2016

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand October 17, 2016

Each September, domestic violence-prevention programs across the country take part in a one-day census to illustrate what they and the victims they serve face at any given moment.
The numbers are sobering. In 2015, the most recent year available, 40,000 people nationwide sought shelter during that 24-hour period and another 31,500 received non-residential assistance in such areas as the courts, childcare and transportation.
For Kentucky, more than 600 people were either in shelters or transitional housing that day, while nearly 400 received other services and 129 had to be turned away at least temporarily because of space, staffing or funding limitations.
Domestic violence affects us all in ways large and small, but women bear the brunt of it, with one study showing that one in four will suffer at the hands of a loved one at some point in her life.
For several decades, this issue has been highlighted during October, which has been set aside as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This time gives us an opportunity to take a closer look at the progress we have made and the problems we still need to address.
The modern era of this work in the United States began in the late 1960s. Kentucky took a major step forward in 1976, when the General Assembly passed a law requiring the public to report any known or suspected cases of adult abuse, neglect or exploitation.
The following year, the YWCA in Louisville opened the commonwealth’s first spousal abuse shelter, and by the mid-1980s, there was a shelter in all 15 area development districts. The creation of domestic-violence orders (DVO) around the same time established a much-needed civil barrier between victims and those accused of harming them.
Other related laws enacted since then called for more training among law enforcement, made sure repeat domestic violence offenders spend more time in jail and kept insurance companies from discriminating against battered victims.
Kentucky was the first state in the nation to notify those with a DVO that the offender had bought a gun or had been released from jail. We also have a center at the University of Kentucky dedicated to studying ways to reduce violence against women.
Last year, the legislature broadened the state’s protective-order system by including victims of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. This went into effect in January, and according to judicial officials, about 70 orders authorized under this law are issued each month.
This year, the General Assembly approved a new law designed to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits. Work has begun to bring that number down, and to make sure nothing like it happens again. The goal is to test each kit within two months by 2020.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Attorney General Andy Beshear spear-headed a two-day summit late last week that focused on fatalities in these cases. One study his office cited found that, in 2010, 40 deaths in the commonwealth involved intimate partners.
For much of our country’s history, domestic violence has been an often ignored crime and victims have been hesitant to come forward. That, thankfully, has changed over the years.
Our goal as a nation is two-fold: To try to stop domestic violence through deterrence and education and to provide victims the security they need. The more we can do for them, the more we all benefit.
If you are being abused or know someone who is, do not hesitate to act. Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services has a toll-free hotline to make reports of adult and child abuse, which is (800) 752-6200; and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-SAFE (7233).
If you have any thoughts about this issue, meanwhile, I would like to know. You can write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer