UPDATE (Feb. 4, 2017): While HB 392 did not pass the Senate during the 2016 session, members of the state house have made the effort by State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) a top priority for the new year, introducing it anew as the first bill in the session, HB1. It is modeled on HB392 and again sponsored by Rep. Sykes and, in a show of bipartisan support, Rep. Nathan Manning (R- N. Ridgeville). Read below for more information about why Rep. Sykes has been fighting for the bill and what passing it could mean for victims of dating violence in Ohio.
In Brief | How HB 392 would offer protection to some of Ohio’s most vulnerable women
by Chris Horne
In brief… An effort to close a “loophole” in the state’s domestic violence statutes, House Bill 392 would extend to victims of dating violence the ability to get a civil protective order (CPO) to threaten an abuser with arrest if they don’t stay away from their victim.
Who can and cannot get a protective order under the current law?
According to Ohio Revised Code 3113.31, if you are married to, are related to, living with or had a child with someone who is abusive, you can seek a CPO. Thanks to 2010’s “Shynerra Grant Law”, juveniles can now also get a protective order if they experience dating violence, but adult victims of dating violence are out of luck. This loophole in the law may affect young women most, particularly college students who are already disproportionately vulnerable to sexual assault on campus.
What happens if dating violence victims can’t get a protective order?
For some women, the result could be death at the hands of their abuser. A protection order allows law enforcement to intervene before another round of violence has taken place, instead of making an arrest after someone has been injured or killed. In the meantime, until this legal gap is closed, dating violence victims can petition for a protective order in stalking cases, but that requires a “pattern of conduct” which means potentially enduring multiple episodes of violence before finding relief. It’s also not guaranteed to work.
In testimony provided to the house judiciary committee, Mickey Valdez, a victim advocate at Summit County’s Victim Assistance Program, told the story of a woman whose recent ex-boyfriend threatened to chop her up in pieces and bury her in the yard. She sought an anti-stalking protective order (ASCPO), which was denied. The same day, the ex-boyfriend pulled the fire alarm at her apartment building and tried to attack her when she went outside. He was arrested and admitted to stalking her, saying he would kill her if she didn’t take him back. Despite all that, her second attempt for a ASCPO was also denied.
Why does Ohio need it?
Only one other state lacks this protection: Georgia. The alternative, going through local legal bodies, would create a patchwork of mismatched laws when something universal could address it throughout the state. HB 392 is victim-oriented, but it’s worth considering how protective orders make otherwise dangerous domestic violence calls safe for police officers. In the worst situations, things are already out of hand when they get a DV call, but a protective order means potentially de-escalating the situation instead.
Who could possibly be against this law passing?
Though sponsored by two Democrats — Akron Rep. Emilia Sykes and Cincinnati Rep. Christie Kuhns — the bill had bipartisan support as it passed the Ohio House of Representatives by a 89-0 vote. The overwhelming support stems, in part, from testimony to the house judiciary committee from the likes of Valdez, Summit Co. Domestic Relations Court’s Chief Magistrate Ron Cable, a sexual assault examiner nurse at Akron General, multiple NEOMED representatives and others who support it.
Surprisingly, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network opposes it. In their testimony, ODVN noted several objections: the recommendation not to change the domestic violence statute but rather expand stalking instead; concern that HB 392’s definition of “intimate partners” would create confusion with the DV statute; suggesting an expanded definition isn’t needed because some dating relationships (“living as spouses”) qualify already; the absence of a parallel criminal protective order; the potential that “lawyers, magistrates, judges, court personnel and abusers” would ask “very personal questions of victims” to prove the dating relationship; and that alleged abusers would not dodge attempts to be served with a CPO, which is no doubt true for all protective orders already.
HB 392 will be considered by the Ohio Senate this month, which is where it could get derailed just as a similar bill had years before. If it fails to pass this year, Sykes and Kuhns — and the victims they’re trying to help — would have to start all over.