Last year, 73 women and children were murdered by abusive partners or males in parental roles. Some of these tragic deaths might have been prevented had the victims been able to get court orders protecting them from their killers.
Under extremely narrow and outdated provisions of Maryland law, such protection is limited to women married to and living with their batterers or single women co-habitating with the father of their child. Yet half of the battered women seeking refuge at Baltimore's House of Ruth can't get court-ordered protection because they don't share a marriage license with the men who abuse them. Of those who petitioned for court orders last year, one-third were denied because they didn't meet the state's unrealistically strict criteria.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer is backing a bill that would bring Maryland out of the dark ages. Among other things, it would make court-mandated protection accessible to a wider class of victims: unmarried women living with batterers; women seeking protection from ex-husbands or lovers; children; the elderly, and partners in same-sex relationships. Abusers would be precluded from contacting their victims at home, work or school, and temporarily barred from the home. The House of Ruth estimates that these changes could benefit as many as 15,000 women a year.