Today the Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill introduced by Senator George Barker (D-Prince William County that would alter Virginia’s existing laws to make it easier for individuals in dating relationships to obtain protective orders. Under current Virginia law, an individual who does not reside with her/his abuser can only obtain a restraining order in cases of stalking or sexual and other offenses if a criminal warrant had been issued.
According to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Virginia is the only state that requires criminal charges be filed against the abuser prior to the issuance of a protective order. Under Barker’s bill, individuals could seek a stalking order against anyone with whom they had been “involved in a substantive, intimate dating relationship” regardless of whether criminal charges had been filed if they could demonstrate that they had experienced violence or threats of violence.
Gena Boyle, an advocate at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, stated, “Every moment they wait to act on this, there are people who are at increased risk of homicide.”