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Ham incident illustrates need for domestic violence laws

A recent news item about a Kentucky man who, in a fit of pique, threw the family’s Christmas ham at a woman in the house may seem like the Scroogiest of stories but actually illustrates the harmful nature of domestic violence.

Laurel County sheriff’s deputies were called after David Brannon, 21, reportedly threw a number of objects, including the Christmas ham, at a woman just prior to Christmas dinner. When deputies arrived, Brannon reportedly tried to flee but was caught by officers. He is now being held in the county jail.

Laws on domestic violence

Victims are protected by both federal and state law.

In Kentucky, domestic violence includes not only physical or sexual abuse or assault, but the fear of injury, abuse or assault by family members. A family member can be a spouse, former spouse, member of an unmarried couple, grandparent, parent, child, stepchild or any other member of the household as a child if the child is the victim.

If the violence did not occur between a family member, then the charge is likely not domestic violence but assault and battery or sexual assault.

Victims of domestic violence in Kentucky can petition for a protective order which forces the abuser to:

  • Stop communicating with the petitioner
  • Stop committing acts of violence or abuse
  • Stop from disposing or damaging property
  • Stop from coming within a specified distance of a residence, school or workplace of the petitioner, child or family member
  • Vacate a shared residence with the petitioner
  • Give up custody of minor children to the petitioner

While a protective order (known in some states as a restraining order) can’t physically stop an abuser, it can provide legal remedy if the order is broken.

Federal Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. Key provisions included:

  • Full funding for legal and court fees for protective orders and rape kits
  • Protection orders recognized in all states and territories
  • Training and funding for special domestic violence crime units

By recognizing domestic violence laws and protective orders in all states, traveling over a state line to commit domestic violence or break a protective order becomes a federal crime.