GreenHouse17 Advocates Speak Out on Domestic Violence Legislation

by John Gregory | 04/28/14 2:41 PM

State lawmakers recently gave domestic violence survivors under emergency protective orders an extra option for self-protection. They rejected, however, giving unmarried couples a common tool to protect against relationship-based abuse.

Darlene Thomas, executive director of the victims’ advocacy agency GreenHouse17, and Diane Fleet, assistant director of the organization, discussed the legislation on Connections with Renee Shaw. GreenHouse17 serves survivors of intimate partner abuse and their families in 17 central Kentucky counties.

Under current state law, an individual who is married, lives with a partner, or has a child with a partner can seek a protective order against a spouse or partner who has been violent or threatens violence. House Bill 8 would have granted that option to couples in dating relationships. Thomas said the measure would have protected high school and college students who are often at risk in dating relationships, as well as older individuals such as widows who may return to dating after many years.

Fleet acknowledged she was disappointed that the bill failed to pass, but said GreenHouse17 and other victims' advocacy groups built good relationships with lawmakers, which she hopes will help the legislation find success in the next General Assembly session.

The legislature did pass House Bill 128, which contains a provision to give abuse survivors under an emergency protective order a temporary permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon without any firearm safety training. The National Rifle Association backed the measure. Thomas said victims' advocates are concerned about the measure because research indicates the presence of a weapon in the home increases the risk of domestic violence-related homicide by 500 percent. She also said the legislation provides no immunity protections to victims who use the weapon to protect themselves against an attacker.

National Recognition for Innovative Efforts
GreenHouse17, formerly known as the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, operates on a 40-acre farm in rural Fayette County. Clients and family members who stay at the facility help maintain the farm; grow and prepare flowers, fruits, and vegetables produced there; and help create and market other products made there. The goal is to sustain the organization and give survivors skills they can use when they return to their regular lives.

"Survivors bring value to our organization, they bring value to this community, and they bring value to work… and we're trying to figure out a way to incorporate all of those opportunities together and then help them build a future of self-sufficiency,” Thomas said.

The organization has been recognized for its innovative approaches with awards from the national Mary Byron Project, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, and the Kentucky Nonprofit Network.

Watch the full Connections conversation.