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Protective order legislation needs to be passed now

March 07, 2012

For a man, the idea that a woman — one with whom he’s enamored — does not want to see him anymore can be traumatic. Most accept the news with sadness or mild depression, but are able to work their way through the emotional pain in an acceptable and healthy manner.

A small fraction, however, react not with sadness, but with a burning rage. We all know the cliché: If I can’t have her, no one can. And we all know how that one usually ends.

Needless to say, this reaction can occur at any stage of a relationship, or for that matter even if there is no relationship. Experience has taught us that this anger can be just as deadly if acted out against a wife, fiancée, girlfriend or casual acquaintance.

Yet in the complex world of relationship law, this anger is not treated equally. Wives and live-in female companions are afforded more protection under the law than are women who do not live with the aggressor.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, would change this. It would allow women to seek protective orders (as opposed to legally flimsy peace orders) against men regardless of their relationship status.

That means that police would be better able to take action against overly aggressive men in less-formal relationships who are unable to put their anger aside. Under the current system, a prohibitive amount of paperwork and legal hoops must be negotiated before police can make an arrest.

Of course, women are not the only victims. Men might find themselves in need of a protective order as well.

No degree of protection is fail-safe, however. The law means little to those incapable of controlling their anger. But a protective order gives a victim a better chance. And for some violators, a few nights in jail might be enough to turn the tide of their aggression.

Like clockwork, domestic violence leads to the death of one or more innocent people in our community each year. It is time to save them or at the very least give them one more layer of protection. The General Assembly should have no doubt about the value of this legislation and the urgent need to see it through to passage.

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