October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As I have done each year since 2019, I will be prefiling legislation this month that that would extend unemployment insurance benefits to victims of intimate-partner violence, stalking and sexual assault. I presented this legislation, with my co-sponsor Rep. Samara Heavrin, to the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment last month. The bill provides a much-needed lifeline for those who are either fired or are forced to leave their job as a result of this abuse. I am encouraged by positive bipartisan response this bill has received, and hopeful that it becomes law during the 2022 legislative session.
Nationally, intimate partner abuse impacts 1 in 4 women, and1 in 9 men in their lifetime. In Kentucky, that number rises to 1 in 3 women and 1 in 8 men per year.
Stalking impacts 1 in 6 women nationwide, and 61.5% of these cases are related to intimate partner violence. For men, 1 in 19 will experience stalking, with 43% of cases related to intimate partner violence. In Kentucky, that number rises to 1 in 4 women, with 71% being related to intimate partner violence.
Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experience sexual violence in their lives.
These numbers are stark reminders of the urgent and desperate situation many Kentuckians find themselves in, and multiple studies have shown that unemployment is often related to domestic violence in a relationship.
Kentucky has been a leader when it comes to legislation that seeks to prevent domestic, dating, sexual, and stalking violence. In 1976, the General Assembly took a major step forward in trying to limit intimate-partner violence, when it passed a law requiring the public to report any known or suspected cases of adult abuse, neglect or exploitation. The following year, the YWCA in Louisville opened the commonwealth’s first shelter for those abused by an intimate partner, and by the mid-1980s, there was a shelter in all 15 area development districts.
The creation of domestic-violence orders (DVO) around the same time established a much-needed civil barrier between victims and those accused of harming them. Several years ago, the legislature built on this work by broadening the state’s protective-order system to include victims of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.
Other related laws enacted over the past three-plus decades range from increasing training among law enforcement and toughening punishment for repeat domestic violence offenders to keeping insurance companies from discriminating against battered victims and ending an extensive backlog of untested rape kits. Kentucky was also the first state in the nation to notify those with a DVO that the offender had bought a gun or had been released from jail, and we also have a center at the University of Kentucky dedicated to studying ways to reduce violence against women.
BR 407 continues that work by helping to alleviate some of the pressure for Kentuckians who must leave their place of employment due to intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. It would keep their coworkers safe, and provide some stability for their children.
As lawmakers, we must recognize the broad impact that abuse has on our families, and provide lifelines whenever and however we can.
If you are being abused or know someone who is, please do not hesitate to call those who can provide immediate assistance. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-SAFE (7233), and the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a lot of information as well, including numbers for our regional shelters. It can be found online at KCADV.ORG. For immediate emergencies, do not hesitate to dial 911.
If you have any questions or comments about this or other issues affecting Kentucky, let me know. You can email me at Nima.Kulkarni@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free message line for all state legislators is 1-800-372-7181.