domestic violence

Sabrina Brown

COVID-19 has forced people across Kentucky and around the world to drastically limit their daily interactions with others in order to save lives.

In addition to the concern about physical health, the isolation is intensifying a secondary crisis – and that’s mental health.

Sabrina Brown is an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Kentucky. She also works with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, part of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

Brown co-authored an article recently published in The Journal of Rural Health titled, “Suicide in the Time of COVID-19: A Perfect Storm.

WKU Public Radio Reporter Rhonda Miller spoke with Brown about what she sees as the increasing impact of the coronavirus on mental health. 

Barren River Area Safe Space

A south-central Kentucky domestic violence shelter is reporting an increased intensity of abuse as a result of the isolation, unemployment, and stress of COVID-19.

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Tori Henninger, executive director of Barren River Area Safe Space, or BRASS. The organization provides emergency shelter and support services for victims of domestic violence in 10 southern Kentucky counties.

Erica Owen/family

The trial of a 28-year-old man charged with charged with killing his ex-girlfriend in her Owensboro home has been delayed.

A Daviess Circuit Court judge ruled at a hearing on May 28 to postpone the Oct. 1 trial, mainly because defense attorneys said COVID-19 is hampering their preparation.

Matthew Adams is charged in the strangling death of Erica Owen, 25, in her home, four weeks after she took out an emergency protective order against him. 

Owen earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Kentucky University and was working as a nurse for Owensboro Health Regional Hospital when she died from strangulation on July 3, 2018.

Jacob Ryan

Even as large swaths of society hunker down, Kentucky’s domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers are preparing to stay open — and deal with a potential influx of clients. 

“We really, really need to get the word out about the fact that we are open, we’re doing business, we’re here for the community,” said Angela Yannelli, the executive director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence


Four men and 25 women in Kentucky were murdered by intimate partners between Sept. 1, 2018 and Aug. 31, 2019.  Some of the convicted or alleged murderers were no longer partners to those who died, but were an ex-boyfriend, ex-wife or ex-husband. 

The Oasis shelter in Owensboro will hold a candlelight vigil in honor of victims of domestic violence on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at Bridgepointe Church at 6 p.m. 

Oasis and a Daviess County family are among those reminding people that there is help to get out of abusive situations. 

Mary Meehan

Gillette, Wyoming, isn’t the kind of place you just happen to come across.

“It’s about a four hour drive through vast, unimpacted, wide, sweeping plains,” said Matt Gray, a professor at University of Wyoming in Laramie, explaining the trek from his office to his clients.

Plains, he said, “and lots and lots of antelope.”

For the last decade, Gray and graduate students have bridged the space across the high plains with a digital connection in order to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

flickr/Robert Nelson

A new study shows Kentucky is among the top 10 states in the nation where women are murdered by men. Women in intimate partner relationships are especially vulnerable.

The report called “When Men Murder Women” is by the nonprofit Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and uses data from the FBI.

The report says having guns in the home can allow domestic violence to escalate to murder. And women are much more likely to be a victim at home than in any other place. 

Barren River Area Safe Space

A Bowling Green-based domestic violence shelter wants to empower women who are trying to land jobs in office settings.

Barren River Area Safe Space—or BRASS--is holding its spring Dress for Change event through May 23. The shelter is giving women donated clothing and accessories they can wear for job interviews and while at work.

BRASS Executive Director Tori Henninger said women who are physically abused by their partners are also often victims of financial abuse.

Rhonda J Miller

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said only three percent of sexual assaults result in a conviction in court and prosecution of those cases must be stepped up. He spoke on the campus of Western Kentucky University on Oct. 9 as part of events to mark National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Beshear said there’s an important development in the works that will increase the rate of prosecution for sexual assaults in Kentucky.

Barren River Area Safe Space

A Bowling Green-based domestic violence shelter wants to empower women who are trying to land jobs in office settings.

Barren River Area Safe Space—or BRASS--is holding its Dress for Change event May 31-June 15.

The shelter is giving women donated clothing and accessories they can wear for job interviews and while at work.

BRASS Executive Director Tori Henninger says the project can be valuable for low-income women and victims domestic violence.

"They are able to feel a little more confident, a little more secure, and a little bit better about their appearance, especially when they're trying to prepare themselves for work outside of a--say--fast food restaurant."

BRASS serves Warren, Barren, Simpson, and seven other southern Kentucky counties.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky is one step closer to providing victims of dating violence with the same protections that married victims have.

A Senate committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow people to file an interpersonal protective order against an abusive dating partner. The bill has passed the House and now heads to the full Senate.

Kentucky is the only state that doesn’t offer civil protection to victims of dating violence. Currently only couples who are married, share a child or cohabitate can file protective orders against their partners.

Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat, said the bill can solve problems quickly without entering the criminal justice system.

“More than half of those who enter this system, the violence stops with a civil protected order,” Tilley said. “In other words, criminal sanctions aren’t necessary. Sometimes the victim doesn’t want to go through the criminal justice process.”

Kentucky LRC

A bill that would give victims of dating violence increased protections passed the House on Thursday evening.

The bill, which has the support of the Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, passed the House unanimously.

But Rep. Donna Mayfield, a Republican from Winchester, expressed concern about the bill, saying that the present system already protects victims.

“I just fear that this opens the floodgates to some situations that may dilute the purity of this situation, the way that we have it in the courts right now,” Mayfield said.

“I’m afraid that those people who desperately need our protection are going to be put in the same pool as a middle school couple, perhaps, that has had a spat.”

A majority of Kentuckians think that the state’s domestic violence laws should include unmarried couples who haven’t live together and those who don’t share a child, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll  found that 80 percent of Kentucky adults favor changing current Kentucky law to allow people to file a domestic violence protection order against a current or former dating partner regardless of their living arrangements or whether they have children together.

Dating Violence Bill Undergoes Rewrite

Nov 10, 2014

Attempts to win approval of dating violence legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly could be bolstered by a new strategy. 

Kentucky Domestic Violence Association Director Sherry Currens says lawmakers will be asked to consider creating a new section in Kentucky Revised Statutes for domestic partner dating violence. Currens says the domestic partner statutes pertaining to dating violence have been aired in the state capital numerous times.

 "And it's calling it an IPO, so it's an interpersonal protective order and it will be in chapter 456. So it's establishing a new section," said Currens.

Currens says there were some members of the state legislature who asked for domestic partner dating violence protections to be removed from current spouse abuse statutes.  The revised legislation was reviewed during an interim legislative meeting Friday. 

Currens says lawmakers should be well acquainted with the issues today. 

"I think everybody is pretty familiar with the bill, with the concept.  As I said before, it's a very long bill, but it's mostly just moving existing statute into a new section, so they're really aren't that many changes to the bill.  So, I'm very hopeful," explained Currens.

A bill that would extend domestic violence protections for unmarried couples in Kentucky has passed a state House committee.

The bill would expand domestic violence protections to couples who are or were in a romantic relationship. Currently, the law protects individuals who have been married to, have a child with or have lived with their abuser.

Kentucky Domestic Violence Association President Darlene Thomas said the law must be expanded to protect all victims of domestic violence.

“Our criminal justice system, rightfully so, is purposeful and cautious, as a means to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected," she said. "However, for a victim of domestic violence, that process is cumbersome and lengthy

Gov. Steve Beshear expressed support for the measure in his State of the Commonwealth address this week.

Similar legislation has easily cleared the House before, but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.