When eHarmony Turns Into eHell: A Look At How Ohio House Bill 392 Is Taking On Dating Violence

Let’s do a quick virtual survey.  How many have heard of Dating Violence?  A show of your virtual hands please.  I, for one, have never heard the term.  And a good possible reason, as Representative Emilia Sykes stated in her speech defending House Bill 392, is that Ohio is one of the last states in the Union to enact a statute designed to help victims of Dating Violence seek protection!  As The Pretenders once sang, “A, O, way to go Ohio.”

Dating violence is the equivalent to domestic violence, but without the status of the victim being a family or household member.  I would argue then when most people hear domestic violence they think spouses, cohabitating partners, or former spouses or partners with children.  That, in a gist, is what Ohio Revised Code 3113.31 (Domestic Violence Protection Order Hearings) provides as a definition for family or household member.

R.C. 3113.31 states that a family or household member means any of the following:

Any of the following who is residing with or has resided with the respondent (think assailant):

A spouse, a person living as a spouse, or a former spouse of the respondent.

A parent, a foster parent, or a child of the respondent, or another person related by consanguinity or affinity to the respondent.

A parent or a child of a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse of the respondent, or another related by consanguinity or affinity to a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse of the respondent.

The natural parent of any child of whom the respondent is the other natural parent or is the putative other natural parent.

“Person living as a spouse” means a person who is living or has lived with the respondent in a common law marital relationship, who otherwise is cohabiting with the respondent, or who otherwise has cohabitated with the respondent within five years prior to the date of the alleged occurrence of the act in question.

In other words, for a person seeking a domestic violence protection order, the must be a spouse, a former spouse, living as a spouse, or a child in common.  So, what if you are in a relationship with an individual who is committing what amounts to domestic violence, but you do not fit into the definition to seek a protection order.  Up until recently, there was not much one could do in Ohio.

This loophole in the domestic violence protection order law is now set to change with House Bill 392.  Under the new law, persons in an ongoing, substantial, intimate and romantic relationship would now be included in the definitions for domestic violence protection orders.

The new proposed codified law, R.C. 3133.311, will have the following language:

“Dating violence” means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts against a petitioner alleging dating violence:

Attempting to cause or recklessly causing bodily injury;

Placing the petitioner alleging dating violence by the threat of force in fear of imminent serious physical harm or committing a violation of section 2903.211 (Menacing by Stalking) or 2911.211 (Aggravated Trespass) of the Revised Code;


“Petitioner alleging dating violence” or “person alleging dating violence” means a person who has or has had a dating relationship with the respondent within the twelve months preceding the date of conduct in question that constitutes the alleged dating violence.  “Petitioner alleging dating violence” or “person alleging dating violence” does not include, with respect to a specified respondent, another person who has only a casual relationship with the specified respondent or another person who has engaged solely in ordinary fraternization in a business or social context with the specified respondent.

The existence of a dating relationship between two persons shall be determined based on a consideration of either the following factors:

The nature of the relationship must have been characterized by the expectation of affection between the two persons.

The frequency and type of interaction between the two person involved in the relationship must have included that the persons have been involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship.

Based on the proposed language, I think the majority of cases regarding Dating Violence protection orders will be dealing with the relationship itself.  Essentially, the arguments will be whether or not the parties had a relationship that would fit into the Dating Violence definition.  For example, would an off again and on again relationship count if the violence happened during one of off times of the relationship?

Like all new laws, the courts will have to hammer out the definition based on the specific facts of each case, assuming the proposed law makes it through the Senate and the Governor signs off on it.




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