- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A Senate committee on Tuesday postponed discussion of legislation targeting domestic violence in South Carolina because the Senate session ran late.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to take up a bill that defines dating violence as assaulting, threatening or stalking someone in a current or past relationship. The committee plans to discuss the issue when it reconvenes May 29.

The measure is part of an effort to extend protection orders to minors and same-sex couples. Current law only permits protection orders against members of the opposite sex who have physically or sexually abused partners with whom they are married, have lived or have a child.

A second bill seeks to increase penalties for domestic violence abusers, confiscate their firearms and require them to attend intervention programs upon a second offense. It also would allow judges to issue permanent no-contact orders and give temporary custody of pets to victims.

Rob Valente, policy consultant for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, noted that dating violence is a problem in a number of states. Orders of protection help victims who are suffering levels of abuse that are serious but have not yet reached levels violent enough to warrant criminal prosecution, Valente said.

“A lot of victims find that it offers more protection because it means they can call the police,” Valente said. “They can show the order and they can see that the abuser should not be anywhere near the victim or should not be calling or should not be harassing.”

Teen victims are not eligible for such orders in South Carolina and other states, however, Valente added.

“They actually cannot get the court or law enforcement to realize the severity of what is going on until something dreadful has happened,” he said.

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