KY: Domestic ViolencePage 4 of 17

2. Domestic Violence in Kentucky

In 2006, when Kentucky’s governor appointed 36 members to the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services noted in its press release that “a study of domestic violence in Kentucky reveals 1 of every 3 women has been victimized by an intimate partner” (KCHFS, 2006). The study, completed in 2005 by the IPV Surveillance Project, had helped to demonstrate that Kentucky women were indeed experiencing domestic violence at a higher rate than the national average (Fritsch, 2005). As noted above, the most recent CDC statistics indicate that 37% of Kentucky women have suffered victimization by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime (CDC, 2011). Because the definitions across data collections have not always been standardized, comparisons can be tricky; it will be important to follow the CDC NISVS data in future years.

Changes do take place. A 2013 editorial in the Maysville Ledger-Independent noted that Kentucky was one of just a few states that did not allow dating partners to obtain protection orders, and it had one of the highest percentages of high school students subjected to dating violence (Ledger-Independent, 2013). On January 1, 2016, House Bill 8 became effective, revising Kentucky’s domestic violence statutes to extend “the ability to get a civil order of protection to victims of dating violence and abuse, sexual assault or stalking” (Kentucky Court of Justice, 2016; KRS 456.010-456.180).

On September 16, 2015, all fifteen of Kentucky’s domestic violence programs participated in the 2015 National Census of Domestic Violence Services, a one-day survey held under the aegis of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. In just that one 24-hour period the state’s programs provided services to 1,004 victims of domestic violence (adults and children). These services included support and advocacy, emergency shelter, transitional housing, prevention services, and educational services.

Unfortunately, on that same day, 129 requests (up from 89 in 2012) could not be met; 68% of the unmet requests were for housing. In the previous year across Kentucky, 40 individual services at local programs were reduced or eliminated and programs reported a decline in government and private funding as well as fewer donors. In addition, across the state 18 staff positions were eliminated, all of which had provided direct services, thus leaving fewer advocates to address requests for help. Losses of funding and staff in Kentucky are higher than the national average as reflected in the 2015 survey (NNEDV, 2015).

Overview of Kentucky Response

Kentucky’s Adult Protection Act (KRS 209) requires the reporting of known or suspected incidences of adult abuse or neglect, and all required reports of domestic violence incidents by law must be made to the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), a department of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Division of Protection and Permanency (KSP, 2014). [See later section of the course for specifics on Kentucky legislation.]

In fiscal year 2014 the DCBS investigated 20,481 allegations of domestic violence. This was a 7.5% decrease over 2013 (KSP, 2014). The number of allegations had begun to climb in 2008 and continued to climb through 2010, followed by small decreases in 2011 and 2012. However, the number of allegations investigated in 2012 was still greater than the 19,193 investigated in 2008, and the numbers increased again in 2013. Despite a decrease from 2013, the 2014 numbers still exceed those for 2008.

In fiscal year 2014 the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV) received 23,620 domestic violence-related calls and 31,390 calls asking for information and/or referrals (KCADV, 2014a). Both figures represent declines over 2012 (3.8% and 44.7% respectively). While these declines reflect a continued downward trend and are important, domestic violence remains a critical problem in Kentucky.

Domestic Violence Centers

The first spousal abuse shelter in Kentucky was opened by the Louisville YWCA in 1977, and by 1980 five more had opened. In 1981 staff members at those six shelter programs formed a statewide coalition—the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, now called the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV). “Its purpose was to provide mutual support, information, resource sharing and technical assistance; to coordinate services; and to collectively advocate for battered women and their children on statewide issues” (KCADV, 2016).

Kentucky is divided into 15 multi-county Area Development Districts (ADDs) created by state law and run as local partnerships. The ADDs tap into local expertise and provide a means to organize planning, services, and statistical information across the state; thus “it made sense to use [them] as targeted areas for domestic violence services” (BADD, 2016). Kentucky reached the goal of providing services in every ADD in 1985 (KCADV, 2016).

These 15 regional domestic violence programs began simply as safe shelters for domestic violence victims. This continues to be a critical part of the services provided, and these state-funded shelters have the capacity to shelter a total of 379 people at one time (down from 465 in 2012 and 485 in 2008) (KCADV, 2014). In fiscal year (FY) 2014, 4,008 victims and their children were sheltered for 163,463 resident days, but almost 2,500 people were unable to be sheltered at some time during the year (KCADV, 2014, 2014a; KSP, 2014).

Source: KCADV, 2014a.

Services Provided by KY Domestic Violence Programs
in Fiscal Year 2014 (July 1,2013 to June 30, 2014)

New residential individuals served


1869 women

1350 children

28 men / 11 unknown

New non-residential individuals served


21,241 women

8 children

1221 men / 40 other

Residential bednights


These shelter programs now provide a variety of related support services, as over time staff members at these agencies have come to understand the complexity of the situation for victims of domestic violence and their growing needs. Among the variety of support services now provided to shelter residents and nonresidents are:

  • Legal/court advocacy
  • Case management
  • Safety planning
  • Support groups and individual counseling
  • Children’s groups and parenting classes
  • Housing assistance
  • Financial education, budgeting, and help in reaching economic independence
  • Access to Individual Development Accounts, free tax preparation, and job search assistance
  • Drug and alcohol services or referrals to substance abuse programs (KCADV, 2014)

In fiscal year 2014 Kentucky domestic violence programs provided medical advocacy for 2,143 adult residential clients and 909 nonresidents, and legal advocacy for 1,960 adult residential clients and 16,457 nonresidents. Group, family, and individual counseling sessions for all adult and youth clients totaled nearly 160,000 hours (KCADV, 2014a).

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

An important recourse for domestic violence victims is protective orders. Emergency Protective Orders (EPOs) and Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) are court orders that can order an abuser to stay away from and/or not contact the person they have been abusing. Usually the petitioner first asks for an EPO and the petition is reviewed by a judge. EPOs cannot be effective for more than 14 days, so if the judge grants the order a hearing date is set within that time period and the respondent must be served with a copy of the order. At the hearing, the court will decide if a DVO should be issued. A DVO can be effective for up to three years (Legal Aid Network of Kentucky, 2009; KRS 403.740). As noted above, beginning in 2016 protective orders can be obtained by dating partners, not just those who are married, living together, or who have a child together.

According to statistics compiled by the Kentucky State Police (KSP) for its annual Crime in Kentucky report, 22,813 petitions were filed by persons seeking DVOsin calendar year 2014. This represents a small decline over 2013, but both figures were higher than the 21,207 filed in 2012. Emergency Temporary Orders and Emergency Protective Orders reported to the Law Information Network of Kentucky (LINK) showed a 4.5% decrease in 2014 over 2013 (KSP, 2014).

Batterer Intervention Programs

In Kentucky batterer intervention is established by statute (KRS 403.7505) and administrative regulation (920 KAR 2:020). A certification program for batterer intervention providers was established in 1996 and the first providers were certified two years later. There are now about 121 of these certified mental health professionals offering services in 54 counties. A list of providers is available from the DCBS website (KCHFS, 2013).

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