A Glaring Loophole In Domestic Violence Law Task Force Wants State To Allow Protection Orders For Abused Dates
Kim was 17 years old when her mother found her beaten and frightened on a street corner.
The girl’s blue eyes were ringed with black. Dark imprints lined her arms. Sickly blue-green bruises marred her legs.
The beating, just one of many, had been administered by Kim’s boyfriend of two years.
When Kim finally mustered the courage to press charges and ask for a protection order, she found only bitter disappointment and more fear.
Thanks to a loophole in Idaho law, her plea for a protection order was denied.
“I was more scared than ever,” Kim said, who asked that her last name not be published. “It kind of gave him the right to come after me and do it again. I knew he would come after me.”
Under Idaho law, victims can get domestic violence protection orders, which tell alleged abusers to stay away, only if they are married to, have lived with or have had children with their abusers.
Kim fell into none of those categories.
Neither did Susan Foutz. She was shot and killed outside her Hauser Lake home last week, allegedly by her stalking ex-boyfriend. Days earlier, she unsuccessfully had appealed in court for a protection order.
Last year, the Idaho attorney general’s Domestic Violence Task Force made changing that law one of its top three priorities.
“This population (in dating relationships) is in dire need of the protections offered in this (law) and should qualify,” the task force wrote.
But opposition killed the proposal before it could make its way before the Legislature this year. Critics worried that dating women seeking protection would overwhelm the court system.
Meanwhile, some women are so frightened they are learning to bend the rules and, in some cases, lie to obtain protection orders.
“What else are you supposed to do?” asked Kim’s mother.
Even rape victims are denied court-ordered protection, unless they are married to or living with their attackers, said Sue Smith, victims’ advocate for the Post Falls Police Department.
The loophole doesn’t exist in Washington state.
Last month, 67 percent of the women in Spokane County who applied for protection orders were single, said Carolyn Morrison, director of the YWCA’s Alternatives to Domestic Violence program.
Morrison’s counterparts in Idaho want to offer women the same kind of help.
“People don’t think domestic violence can happen in dating relationships, but it can,” said Holladay Sanderson, director of the Coeur d’Alene Women’s Center.
While protection orders are far from being bulletproof shields, they are a good way to let officers intervene, Sanderson said.
And for the victims, “it’s like a safety blanket,” Kim said.
“I think these people who are subjected to intimidation and terrorism by someone with whom they are having an intimate relationship deserve protection,” said Monte MacConnell, an Ada County legal adviser who has taught officers about domestic violence issues for 10 years.
But, MacConnell said, “a good many of the more powerful members of the Legislature are extremely reluctant to give more protection to victims than has already been granted - which I think is reprehensible.”
If the law is changed, some legislators fear the courts will be swamped with requests for protection orders.
They also wonder how to determine a dating relationship. Does one date count? Two?
The number of Idaho protection orders issued already is growing about 20 percent a year. In Kootenai County, 600 protection orders were issued in 1993. During 1995, 825 were granted.
Adding dating relationships could double or triple that number, according to some critics.
“We want to make sure the protection orders that are issued are handled adequately,” said state Sen. Sheila Sorensen, R-Boise.
Kim, now 18, hopes to tell next session’s Legislature what she’s been through.
She met her boyfriend just before turning 15. The abuse started with petty possessiveness but quickly turned ugly.
She remembers her boyfriend repeatedly kicking her in the stomach, smashing her head against the car window.
“She kept this from us,” said Kim’s mother. “We thought we just had a very obnoxious 16-year-old girl that would run away from home. But then we found out she was staying away because she was trying to heal up. She didn’t want her dad to see her.”
When her parents learned the truth, they encouraged Kim to press charges, get protection. Kim was frightened. Her boyfriend had threatened to hurt her family.
But out of desperation, she went to court.
“I was scared, I wanted something. I was sick of getting my tires slashed, of getting followed,” she said.
Kim nearly backed out when the judge said he couldn’t grant the protection order.
“She wanted to drop everything,” Kim’s mom said. “‘I shouldn’t have even opened my mouth,’ were her exact words.”
Eventually, the family decided to stretch the truth a bit to get the order. They used the fact that she had stayed over at her boyfriend’s house a couple of times to make it sound as though she had lived with him.
“That was the only way we could do it,” said Kim’s mom.
Many other women, meanwhile, continue to be battered by their boyfriends. Or worse.
“Something needs to be done,” Kim said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DESPERATE TIMES Some women are so frightened they are learning to bend the rules and, in some cases, lie to get protection orders.
This sidebar appeared with the story: DESPERATE TIMES Some women are so frightened they are learning to bend the rules and, in some cases, lie to get protection orders.