Virginia legislators are poised to recommend changes to the state's protective order law to their colleagues. Those changes are designed to protect women from dating violence. There is growing consensus that the legislature needs to address dating relationships in Virginia's protective order law but there is still debate about exactly how to do it.
When the state crime commission meets next month, members are likely to endorse a plan to extend domestic violence protections to people who are dating. 58th District Delegate Rob Bell (R) said, "There are a couple of different proposals on the table right now but it does look like we have an agreement that we're going to expand the field."
Forty-two other states already offer protective orders - commonly known as restraining orders - to people who are in intimate, dating relationships, but not Virginia, at least not yet. Virginia legislators are grappling with several proposals. One would expand the categories of people who can apply for protective orders to include people in a serious dating relationship. Another proposal would tweak portions of the stalking statute.
Whatever remedy lawmakers draft will have to balance two concerns. Bell said, "The goal would be to have it easier for the people that need them but not so common that police can't give it effect".
For years lawmakers have avoided the issue of dating violence altogether. Women's rights advocate Kristi Vanaudenhove said, "The fact that we're still trying to kind of avoid naming that as something that we're trying to protect, really does make it difficult then to assure people that they're getting that protection".
Although the legislature has grappled with the issue before, the murder of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love has put pressure on lawmakers to act.
Next month, the crime commission will decide which proposal to recommend to the General Assembly. The measure would still face an uncertain path through the legislature. Governor Bob McDonnell has yet to say where he stands on the legislation.