Under a new law, Alabama can now protect domestic violence victims who have been in a dating relationship for at least six months. Previously, “there must have been a connection by marriage, a child being involved in the relationship, a common-law marriage, or the abuse include a former household member in order to file a protection order.” The new law also recognizes arson, criminal trespassing, and criminal coercion as abuse and allows people as young as 18 to file for protection.
Under this new law, significantly more people can be protected from their abusers. Thirty-five percent of domestic violence victims are victims of dating abuse who previously lacked sufficient protections under Alabama law. Carolyn Crump, Executive Director of Kelly’s Rainbow, a non-profit shelter in Alabama, praises the law for allowing 18-year-olds to file for protection: “we get a lot of people in here that are 18, but they didn’t qualify to get a protection order, and their parents would have to come in for them.”
However, while the new law certainly has improved Alabama regulations on who can file for protection from their abuser, there is still a lot of work to be done. As The Curvature stated, the law still “leaves far too many victims of abuse out in the cold.” The new law still excludes minors under the age of 18 and those who have been in a dating relationship less than six months from receiving protection from domestic violence.
Other states have also addressed the issue of domestic violence recently. The Connecticut legislature passed several anti-domestic violence laws, including prevention programs and better funding for shelters. Recently proposed bills in Maryland would have decreased the standard of evidence for receiving a protective order from “clear and convincing evidence” to a “preponderance of evidence,” the standard in every other civil matter. Unfortunately, the Maryland legislature did not pass the bills.
Domestic violence continues to be an issue across the country. While it is encouraging that state legislatures have been addressing this issue recently, there is still more work to be done. For information about how well your state deals with issues of domestic violence, particularly with regard to dating violence, check out Break the Cycle’s 2010 State Report Cards (PDF). FYI: Pennsylvania received a grade of “D.”