Victims In Small Towns Need Stronger Rights Too

When you work in victim advocacy or direct services, you often hear heartbreaking stories. Sometimes you think you’ve heard it all or that you’ve become somewhat immune to the atrocities that humans sometimes inflict upon one another. But every once in a while, someone’s words will pierce through the self-protective veil you’ve developed. This week, that happened to me.

I received a call from a woman in a rural county in Kentucky who has recently left an abusive marriage. Anyone familiar with domestic abuse understands that leaving is the most dangerous time for victims and, in this woman’s case, an unresponsive system is making her situation much more dangerous for her and her children. 

This woman was beaten by her ex-husband on numerous occasions. The police were called and he was arrested – the bruises and bleeding wounds were hard to ignore. Charges were filed by the county attorney’s office. She filed for a domestic violence order (DVO) of protection so that he would be ordered to stay away from her, the home, and her children. He was ordered to attend counseling through the local community health center. Yet, this is where her story takes a darker turn. 

One day, a state trooper showed up at the woman’s door and told her she was in grave danger. Her ex-husband had made disclosures during his counseling session that day about what he intended to do to her. His intentions were abhorrent and torturous – so much so, that his counselor reports still having nightmares about them to this day. In short, he wanted to keep her teetering back and forth on the brink of death for an extended period of time. The trooper informed the woman that her ex-husband was going to be arrested and would likely be held in a mental health facility. 

Unfortunately, the man was released a short time later and unbelievably has joint custody of the couple’s two children; despite the significant threat that he poses. He continues to repeatedly violate the terms of the DVO, but because of the small town dynamics and “good ol’ boys” club, this woman can’t rely on the police in this particular town to help. In fact, she was told, “I grew up with his daddy – he wouldn’t do that,” the last time she called for help when he mowed down her mailbox with his car. The county’s cases are still pending after an extended amount of time. 

Marsy’s Law for Kentucky would ensure that this woman, as well as other individuals who become crime victims, have the opportunity to consult with the prosecutor and voice significant safety concerns to the court – because they most certainly exist and the need to be heard is urgent.

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