On Thursday, July 1, the dating violence bill (House Bill 231) becomes law in Georgia. The new law allows victims of dating violence to get a protective order to protect them against their abusers. Victims of dating violence are defined as those who have a committed romantic relationship but doesn’t require a sexual involvement.

In the past, a person had to have a formal relationship with their abuser to get a protective order, like those related as spouses, former spouses, parents, children and those who share a child or household. Read the legislation online at www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59195.

“GLSP (Georgia Legal Services Program) sees dating violence victims that we couldn’t help because they weren’t related to the abusers in any kind of formal relationship,” said Vicky Kimbrell, GLSP’s Family Law Project director. “But now, if you are a victim of dating violence, you may be able to get a protective order from the courts to protect you from the abuser.”

One key area is teen dating violence. According to the Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, nearly half of victims killed by their abuser began their relationship with the person who eventually killed them when they were between the ages of 13-24.

“Teens who are dating violence victims are particularly vulnerable to abuse and intimidation because of youth and inexperience,” said Tomieka Daniel, GLSP managing attorney and an expert in teen dating violence. “Finally, GLSP can ask the court to protect these teen and child victims to keep them safer.”

According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, Georgia’s certified family violence and sexual assault centers received 95,839 crisis calls for help in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents more than a 30% increase from 2019.

With increased stress on individuals and families and call volumes rising at domestic violence hotlines during the pandemic, GLSP stands ready to provide free civil legal aid to low-income residents in the 154 counties outside metro Atlanta.

GLSP’s Domestic Violence Project serves 154 of the state’s 159 counties assuring holistic legal representation by providing attorneys in protective order cases, access to financial help with food stamps and Medicaid, help with housing representation if the landlord is threatening eviction, or advice and resources on divorces.

GLSP lawyers represent victims and collaborate with law enforcement, courts and domestic violence and social service agencies to help meet the safety and financial needs of survivors and the community.

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