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Gov. Kasich signs bill closing domestic violence loophole

(April 5, 2018) — Victims of dating violence now have legal protections in Ohio after Gov. John Kasich signed a bipartisan bill closing what some said was a gaping loophole in Ohio’s domestic violence laws.

“If you have been victims, we’ll pray for you,” Kasich said. “But not just thoughts and prayers. Now, we have action, too.”

Ohio was one of only two states that didn’t offer legal protections, such as civil protection orders, to victims of dating violence. House Bill 1, sponsored by state Reps. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, and Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, expands the definition of domestic violence to include a “person with whom the respondent is or was in a dating relationship.”

Previously, Ohio recognized domestic violence only as violence occurring between spouses, those cohabiting, or those with a common child or family members, according to a release.

“For entirely too long, victims have been in the shadows,” Sykes said. She said the passage of such legislation has been her No. 1 priority since she entered office.

Sykes said the bill was an important message, not just to victims of abuse, but abusers as well.

“We will not tolerate this kind of behavior,” she said.

Mickey Valdez, the director of services for the Victim Assistance Program in Summit County, said of the more-than 6,000 people the program serves, 40 percent are victims of domestic violence. Of that 40 percent, Valdez said, one in four are victims of dating violence.

Valdez said the law acknowledges two core facts: that victims of dating violence experience the same traumas as other victims of domestic violence, and that victims of dating violence are valued by Ohio lawmakers.

Similar legislation had failed in the past. In a previous session, a bill passed the House but in the Senate was attached to legislation aimed at strengthening domestic violence civil protection orders and died on the floor during a lame-duck session.

Violence between intimate partners is prevalent. According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in four women and one in nine men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

The analysis of the bill shows that a dating relationship is defined as “a relationship between individuals who have, or have had, a relationship of a romantic or intimate nature; it does not include a casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context.”

Kasich also referenced newly introduced gun legislation that proposes six gun policy changes to Ohio lawmakers. One of the changes prohibits those found guilty of a domestic violence crime or subject to a protection order from owning a firearm.

“This is just one more step in the area of justice, with a long way to go,” Kasich said.