This Ohio bill could protect victims of dating violence

Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 13:45:39-05

For years, a loophole in Ohio law has left domestic violence victims unprotected and vulnerable because our state's protection orders aren't the same for girlfriends and boyfriends as they are for those who are married. 

A bill headed to our governor will change that—House Bill 1.

News 5 checked in with a prominent local domestic violence survivor and advocate, Laura Cowan, to see if she believes the HB1 would make a difference. 

"I'm just glad I survived it. A lot of women don't," Cowan said, when asked about her experience, "He's serving 7 life terms for what he did to us."

"When I saw how abusive he was, I wanted out that relationship period. He knew  I wanted to leave, me and my children, so to keep us from leaving? He locked us up in a garage. No one could hear our cries, the only thing that got us out of that situation? I was able to slip a postal worker a note," she said. 

Cowan has made a point to help others ever since. 

A domestic violence advocate with Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, she sees how the State of Ohio doesn't protect every victim. 

Ohio is one of only two states that don't allow victims abused by boyfriends or girlfriends the same protection orders allowed to married couples. 

"We are behind times with this, I know," Cowan said. And that's part of the issue statewide, no modernization of these type of laws, as more dating relationships do not lead to marriage.

"You can run into your assailant in a store, anywhere, and without that piece of paper to protect you? Anything can happen to you," she said. 

House Bill 1 would change that.

The bipartisan proposal allows victims of dating violence to get a civil protection order against their abuser. The same protection granted to those who are married. 

"We need to be tougher, stiffer, just having a protection order in place for people who are not married? Is very important," she said. 

With one in 4 women and one in 9 men reporting issues with sexual or physical violence, or stalking, Cowan told News 5 House Bill 1 is a move in the right direction

"We have to start somewhere!"

With that bipartisan support in our legislature, the bill awaits Governor Kasich's signature to become law- we will follow up on his decision.