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Ohio Senate passes bill to crack down on protection order violators

Posted at 5:37 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-17 17:40:47-04

Change your behavior or wind up behind bars — it's the message one lawmaker is sending to those who just don't know when to quit.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof wants to see the state crack down on people who violate protection orders, and domestic violence advocates like Megan Gergen are applauding the move. Gergen, who works at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, said if the punishment for violating protection orders is beefed up, more women in danger would be more likely to come forward and request one.

But, right now, many feel they're nothing more than just a piece of paper.    

"What is this piece of paper going to do? What is this really going to help me with," said Gergen, who works closely with those facing danger. 

Gergen said a protection order gives a perpetrator an opportunity to leave the victim alone without having to go so far as to press charges. But far too often, Gergen said she hears horror stories about what happens when the court mandate doesn't work.

"If a perpetrator's not being held accountable for calling, texting, coming around, whatever that violation is, why would you stop?" Gergen said.

The Ohio Senate just approved Bill 171, which increases the penalty of violating a protection order from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on past violations. 

"If we can hold people and say that this behavior is unacceptable and there are increased penalties for that violation it's good," said Gergen.

In some cases, repeat offenders could face jail time.

"Whether it's 90 days, 60 days, 30 days it can then give that client, the victim, time to move, to get connected with services to change locks, to do whatever. So, if they violate this order it can give a little breathing room to further their safety plan along the way," said Gergen.