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    A Louisville woman standing at a bus stop with four other women may not realize the chances of either herself or the women around her experiencing domestic violence.  However, one out of every five women in the U.S. experiences this kind of violence between the ages of 11 and 17.  Nearly one in seven men experience the same violence during these years as well, according to the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence against Women. 

    Yesterday, Louisville teens, citizens and activists alike paraded around city hall lobbying for House Bill 8 in the Kentucky General Assembly.  “We’re trying to get more awareness on it so people will know what’s going on with House Bill 8,” said Michael Miller. 

    The teen dating violence awareness walk brought together students from Atherton high school and Assumption high school with activists and members of different service agencies in the community.  “It’s one thing to hear that teen dating violence is an issue from people whose job is to work in that aspect of domestic violence,” said Miller, the prevention coordinator for the Center for Women and Families, “It changes the conversation to hear it from an actual teenager tell why it is important to them.”

    House Bill 8, which is sponsored by Rep. John Tilley D-Hopkinsville, proposes amendments to the current rules governing emergency protective orders (EPO).  “Right now if you are going to file an EPO in Kentucky,” said Miller, “you have to either have a kid with your perpetrator, you have to live with them, or you have to be married to them.”  Gov. Steve Beshear also endorses House Bill 8

    Kentucky, along with Alabama, Georgia and Ohio, excludes those in dating relationships from obtaining a protective order. 

    Khalilah Collins, Project Manager for PACT (Parkhill, Algonquin and California Teens in Action), said of teen relationships, “Our youth are experiencing teen dating violence at rates we are having a hard time digesting.  They need access to protective orders just like anyone who is experiencing violence in an intimate partner relationship.  That protection should not be based on marital status or age.  It should be available to all who need it.”

    While the University of Louisville does currently allow a victim of dating violence to obtain a no-contact order through the student judicial process, the protections of such an order are limited in their geographical scope of the campus area, according to a memo to President Ramsey from PEACC.  PEACC promotes prevention, education and advocacy in the campus and community with offices on UofL’s campus. 

    Miller talks on the importance of the teen dating violence awareness walk because of the various roadblocks inhibiting House Bill 8.  Roadblocks to the legislation include “more added work to the police force,” teens failing to understand “what an EPO is for or just getting it without really needing it,” and worries of “that small minority of people that might use it for their advantage,” according to Miller. 

    February is national Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and citizens of all ages across the country are raising awareness for this issue. Sharon LaRue, director of UofL’s PEACC program, said, “Whether we are a direct victim or we know someone who has been a victim – and we can all play a part in ending this violence.”  

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