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Law passed to help people caught in dating violence

Date: 2006-10-30

While it is common for those who are married, divorced or living together to file orders of protection against violent mates or ex-mates, up until recently there has not been any protection provided to those in violent dating situations.

Now a bill has been passed in the last legislative session to provide remedies for those caught in a violent situation with somebody they are dating or have dated. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, in the House; and Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, in the Senate.

The law allows domestic violence victims in dating relationships to seek orders of protection against perpetrators.

Smith said it saves lives.

Before the legislation was passed, orders of protection could only be obtained for those in relationships whereby people live together or share children.

The law adds to language to include “ persons who are presently or in the past have been in a dating relationship together. ”

Covered already before this expansion was passed in 2004 were former and current spouses, parents and children, people related by blood, any children living in the household, people who presently live together or in the past lived together, and those who have children in common.

The law defines a “ dating relationship” as a “ romantic or intimate social relationship between two individuals, ” to be determined by examining the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the two people involved in the relationship.

According to language in the law, a dating relationship for the purposes of the measure is not “ a casual relationship or ordinary fraternization between two people in a business or social context. ”

Jayne Ann Kita, executive director of the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said the bill and subsequently enacted law keeps batterers away from victims in dating relationships.

“ So that’s a very important thing that it did do, ” she said.

The bill and law also make dating violence a domestic violence criminal offense, she said, which enables enhancement penalties for subsequent offenses.

“ So that is also beneficial, ” she said.

She said it also recognizes that dating violence is a form of domestic violence — that a person can use physical force and other forms to control victims and abuse them in those relationships.

An impetus to getting the bill passed, she said, was hearing from victims who could not get orders of protection because they were not living together or did not have children together.

An example she mentioned that caught legislators’ attention, she said, was the case of Burgundy Duncan, who was fatally stabbed by Eric Davis of Warren after an argument about a Valentine’s Day gift on Feb. 17, 2005. Duncan was 17. It occurred in Bradley County. Davis was charged with firstdegree murder.

Duncan could not have gotten an order of protection, Kita said, because it was a dating relationship and not one in which they lived together or shared children.

Kita said more younger people are involved in dating violence situations.

“ We’re seeing that type of controlling and violent behavior among kids, ” she said.

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