Lawmakers Hear Details of Dating Protection Act

(KCPW News)  Utah Lawmakers on the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee today heard the latest version of a bill that is designed to fill gaps in current laws and allows protective orders for people who have been involved in abusive dating relationships.  Rick Sorenson, whose daughter was raped while on a first date, says nothing in current law could keep his daughter’s abuser away.

“As he drove up the canyons with her the abuse started in the vehicle, he kept her for the weekend.  After the multiple rapes and sodomy was through, he took her back down to her car, gave her a hug and said ‘goodbye, thanks for a wonderful weekend, and I hope we can do this again.’  After which nothing was there to really protect her,” said Sorenson.

According to statistics from the Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence at the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, more than 15% of rapes and 17% of attempted rapes against Utah women in 2007 were committed by boyfriends or ex-boyfriends.

Gayle Ruzicka of the Utah Eagle Forum says she hopes lawmakers amend the bill to protect high school students, and says she doubts protective orders are a deterrent.

“Somebody who is going to break the law to really harm or hurt somebody is not going to worry about the penalty or breaking the law of a protective order.  ‘Oh I can’t go beat her up because there is a protective order.’  If they are going to beat them up, they’re going to beat them up.  They’re going to break the law.  That’s a violent, awful person,” said Ruzicka.

Democratic Representative Jennifer Seelig is the sponsor of the draft Dating Protection Act.  A similar bill was introduced during the 2012 legislative session but was held in committee.