New Law Protects Abused; Dating Violence Statute among Those Taking Effect

By Pfankuch, Thomas B. | The Florida Times Union, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

New Law Protects Abused; Dating Violence Statute among Those Taking Effect


Pfankuch, Thomas B., The Florida Times Union


Byline: Thomas B. Pfankuch, Times-Union staff writer

For years, Florida law has made it easier for people who live together to get legal protection when their relationship turns violent or emotionally abusive.

For example, judges can issue protective injunctions against an abusive spouse or live-in lover after only one incident of abuse, while state law requires at least two abusive incidents before a judge can issue protective restraining orders in situations where two people have never lived together.

But among teens and young adults in particular, violence and abuse often occur between people who have never cohabitated, advocates say.

To provide more protection to people in abusive dating relationships, the Legislature passed a law that takes effect today to provide domestic violence protections to people who are only dating.

The law is one of a handful of new laws that take effect today and a small group of constitutional amendments that kick in on Tuesday. Other constitutional amendments, such as one that bans smoking in the workplace and another to reduce class sizes, require action by the Legislature during the spring session.

The so-called "dating violence" provision could have the most immediate impact of all the new laws and amendments. The new definition and protections are part of an omnibus domestic violence law that takes effect today.

The frequency of incidents of violence and even homicides related to dating relationships has risen in recent years, said Jennifer Dritt, a domestic violence administrator at the Florida Department of Children and Families. Though Dritt couldn't specify why an increase has occurred, she said research has shown that people involved in a violent relationship as kids or adults tend to suffer subsequent violent relationships in their lifetimes.

"This law really recognizes this as a serious issue that warrants protection," Dritt said.

Ellen Siler, chief executive officer of the Hubbard House shelter in Jacksonville, said she and other advocates worked for three years to get the dating measure passed. She said she often gets disturbing calls from parents of teens and young adults who can't get protection for their children involved in violent dating relationships. In particular, violence can occur when relationships are ending, regardless of whether the people were married, living together or only dating, she said. …

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