ATrain Education


Continuing Education for Health Professionals

Kentucky: Domestic Violence

Module 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” (CHFS, 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).

In November 2009 a special report in the Louisville Courier-Journal stated that in the previous three years 49 Kentuckians had been “killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or former mates” (Wolfson, 2009). Information compiled by the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA) showed that these women ranged in age from 23 to 83 and about half of them had been the victim of murder-suicides (KDVA, 2008, 2009b). The personal and economic toll that domestic violence has taken and continues to take on Kentucky citizens is enormous and far-reaching, as the incoming president of the KDVA observed in early 2009:

The economic impact of domestic violence has been overwhelming. In addition to the obvious costs to our healthcare system, our courts, jails, and prisons, it impacts the drop-out rate in our school, the number of children removed and placed into foster care, the health and welfare of our workforce, and absenteeism on the job. It impacts a family’s ability to live in a home with a stable environment. And the growing use of drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms for many of our families is becoming more of a factor each year.

KDVA President, 2009a

Overview and Legislation

Kentucky’s Adult Protection Act (KRS 209), passed in 1976, requires reporting of known or suspected incidences of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation, and it was expanded in 1978 to include mandatory reporting and provision of voluntary protective services to spousal abuse victims (KSP, 2008). All required reports 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. In 1996 additional legislation (HB 309) was enacted that mandated training about domestic violence for nurses and some other healthcare professionals.

In fiscal year 2008 the DCBS investigated 19,193 allegations of domestic violence. This was a 7.4% increase over 2007 (KSP, 2008). The previous five years had shown a steady decrease in these numbers, but the 2008 figure was higher than that of both 2006 and 2007 (KSP, 2004­–2008). Employment and economic stressors are known to play a role in domestic violence; recent widespread economic problems may have exacerbated domestic violence in some situations and be one factor in the increased number of incidents.

In fiscal year 2008 the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association received 35,636 domestic violence-related calls and 74,781 calls asking for information and/or referrals. The first figure has been increasing since 2005 (3–20% per year). And, while the 2008 information/referral calls dropped about 1.4% over 2007, in 2007 they had increased a dramatic 22% over the previous year (KSP, 2006–2008). Domestic violence continues to be a critical problem in Kentucky.

Domestic Violence Centers

The first spouse 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 the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA), which was intended to be a coalition of all the domestic violence programs in the state. “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” (KDVA, 2010b).

The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association has fifteen member domestic violence programs, covering each of the state’s fifteen Area Development Districts (ADDs). ADDs are public bodies created by state law and run by local partnerships. They provide a means to organize planning, services, and statistical information across the state (BGADD, 2010).

Kentucky's Area Development Districts

Kentucky development areas

KDVA’s original goal had been to provide services in every district, a goal that was reached in 1985. Because ADDs comprise multiple counties, most will have multiple domestic violence shelter and service locations to serve different areas within the district (KDVA, 2010a). In addition to these KDVA member facilities, there is a shelter program in the Pikeville area that is run by a local non-profit cooperative board and designed simply to serve Pike County.

These fifteen 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 485 people at one time. This is a miniscule number compared to the needs of victims for shelter and, in 2008, 2,357 people were unable to be sheltered at some time during the year, and that number has been rising each year (KDVA, 2010b; KSP, 2006–2008).

Source: KDVA, 2009c.

Services Provided by Domestic Violence Programs in Kentucky in 2008–2009

New residential individuals served


  • 2146 women
  • 1829 children
  • 10 men

New non-residential individuals served


  • 20898 women
  • 694 children
  • 1646 men

Days of shelter


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 non-residents are:

  • Legal/court advocacy
  • Case management
  • Safety planning
  • Support groups
  • Individual counseling
  • Housing assistance
  • Job search, resume writing, improving basic job skills
  • Children's groups, parenting
  • Drug and alcohol issues (KDVA, 2010b)

In fiscal year 2009 KDVA member programs provided medical advocacy for 4,275 residential clients and 2,612 nonresidents, and legal advocacy for 4,595 residents and 27,447 nonresidents. Group and individual counseling sessions for all clients totaled nearly 150,000 (KDVA, 2009c). These are just a few of the support services offered, and “the programs are also committed to preventing future domestic violence through public awareness and community education efforts. Domestic violence programs are working with schools, local professionals, and community groups to increase understanding of domestic violence issues” (KDVA, 2010b).

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

An important recourse for domestic violence victims is protective orders. A portion of KRS 403 deals with the purpose of, types, and procedures for obtaining protective orders. These are intended “to allow persons who are victims of domestic violence and abuse to obtain effective, short-term protection against further violence and abuse in order that their lives will be as secure and as uninterrupted as possible” and to make it easier for law enforcement officers to respond to domestic violence and abuse incidents and to give them authority to immediately apprehend violators (KRS 403.715). “Any family member or member of an unmarried couple who is a resident of this state or has fled to this state to escape domestic violence and abuse” may file a petition for a protective order (KRS 403.725(1)).

Usually the petitioner first asks for an Emergency Protective Order (EPO), which must be signed by a judge. Both parties must be notified of the order and the hearing date before it can take effect. EPOs are only good for 14 days but may be renewed if they expire before the respondent has been served. Unfortunately, until they have been served, no action can be taken by law enforcement officers. When the hearing is held the judge will determine if a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) is to be issued. DVOs can be issued for up to three years (Logan et al, 2009). A study released in 2009 demonstrated that protective orders in Kentucky have generally been effective at ending or reducing violence and reducing fear. However, they have not proven to be as effective for victims of stalking (Logan et al, 2009).

According to statistics compiled by the Kentucky State Police (KSP) for its annual Crime in Kentucky report, in fiscal year 2008 (ending June 30), 26,020 petitions were filed by persons seeking Domestic Violence Protective Orders. While there had been a small drop from 2006 and 2007, 2008 reflected a higher number than either 2006 or 2007. Emergency Temporary Orders and Emergency Protective Orders reported to the Law Information Network of Kentucky (LINK) showed a 3.1% increase in 2008 over 2007 (KSP, 2006–2008).

A noteworthy expansion of enforcement options against perpetrators of domestic violence is legislation just signed into law in April 2010. Known in Kentucky as “Amanda’s Bill,” this law (HB 1) includes a number of items related to the enforcement of protection orders and, among other things, “allows judges to order those who violate a domestic violence order to wear a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device. . . [and] extends the continuance of an un-served emergency protective order for 6 months, rather than the current 90 days” (WFIE, 2010).

Batterer Intervention Programs

Batterer intervention is established by statute in Kentucky (KRS 403.7505) and a certification program for batterer intervention providers was established in 1996. The first providers were certified two years later and there are now about 100 offering services in 45 counties. A list of providers is available from the DCBS (CHFS, 2010c).

  • Online
  • Study the course, take the test, register and pay, print your certificate. Done!

  • Print Option
  • Click "Print Option" to print a hard copy with mail-in instructions.

  • Take the Test