A new Kentucky law removes a barrier that victims of domestic violence often face when making the difficult decision to leave their abuser.
House Bill 309 gives people with a long-term protective order the ability to terminate a rental lease with 30 days notice to their landlord.
Mary O'Doherty, deputy director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says without that protection, victims often stay in abusive homes and relationships.
"If they leave their abusers and they break a lease, they've just damaged their rental history,” she explains. “They've just really hurt themselves, financially and economically."
Gov. Matt Bevin signed the bill last week and it takes effect in late June. House Bill 309 also makes it illegal to evict any victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse or stalking, who has a civil or criminal protective order.
O'Doherty describes victim advocates as "thrilled" with the progress made in this year's legislative session. Lawmakers also replaced the state's outdated mandatory reporting law for spousal abuse with a new, education-based approach.
"We believe the old law was keeping survivors from seeking help,” she states. “They were concerned that their abusers might find out that they had sought help."
O'Doherty notes the law in no way eliminates the requirement that anyone who suspects child abuse report it to the state.
She explains that when the mandatory reporting law was passed in 1978, the state had only one domestic violence program. Now, there's an extensive statewide network.
Under the new law, when a person discloses domestic violence to a therapist, doctor or other professional, that professional is required to provide information about domestic violence and sexual assault programs and how to access protective orders.