Domestic violence laws expanded in Ohio

Victims of dating violence — often young women — will soon be able to get civil protection orders against their ex-partners as a tool for ending physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 1 into law on Thursday. It will take effect in 90 days.

State Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, a primary sponsor of the bill, said the bill “sends a message to victims that we are with you, we will protect you and we will not let you go through this alone. But it also sends a message to abusers that we will not tolerate this type of behavior in this state.”

Related: Victims of dating violence get new protections in Ohio

Ohio and Georgia are the only states that don’t extend the same protections afforded to victims of domestic violence to victims of dating violence, Sykes said.

Current law defines domestic violence as occurring between spouses, ex-spouses, family members, those living together or parents. It leaves out boyfriends and girlfriends in dating relationships where the same patterns of abuse and violence often play out.

Dating violence can be physical, sexual or emotional, including hitting, shoving, choking; unwanted touching or pressure to have sex; being extremely controlling, threatening to harm self or others, stalking or using put downs and insults, according to the bill.

Related: Ohio lawmaker seeks change: In some cases ‘it’s legal to rape your spouse’

Abuse can start early. The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicated almost 12 percent of high school girls reported physical violence and nearly 16 percent reported sexual violence from a dating partner in the previous 12 months. Forty-three percent of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

The effort to extend civil protection orders to victims of dating violence started at least a decade ago.

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