Domestic violence bills aim to improve victim safety


Domestic violence victims will get more protection under a package of bills now moving through the state legislature.

State representative Lauren Davis (D-Shoreline) is sponsoring House Bill 1715. The bill challenges the idea that domestic violence victims need to go into hiding and holds the abusers accountable, she said. The law would initiate statewide requirements for electronic monitoring with victim notification, change the process for surrendering firearms and create provisions under which a domestic violence victim can terminate a rental agreement.

Among other provisions, HB 1715 establishes the Domestic Violence Lethality Hotline seeking to determine how much danger domestic violence perpetrators pose. Davis said HB 1715 rejects the ‘status quo’ where victims receive a court order promising safety that isn’t guaranteed. 

The term ‘never event’ is used in health care settings to describe situations that are so preventable, they should never occur; domestic violence homicide should fall under this category, she said. Davis said murders follow consistent patterns and are predictable, but people are still killed every year in Washington by current or former partners.

“This is unacceptable,” she said. “House Bill 1715 builds the system that domestic violence survivors deserve.”

Another bill sponsored by state senator Nikki Torres (R-Pasco), Senate Bill 5477, extends the Washington State Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force.

The bill would require law enforcement personnel to enter missing person cases into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System if a person has not been found within 30 days of a report or if an agency suspects criminal activity is the cause of the disappearance, she said. 

The bill requires a task force to develop recommendations for the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and health services as well as seeks to improve communication with families involved in the missing and murdered Indigenous people cases, Torres said.

Removing guns from the hands of abusers is another element that needs improvement, said state senator Jesse Saloman (D-Shoreline). 

As a former prosecutor and public defender, Saloman said he saw how easy it was for defendants to say they don’t own guns and be released without anyone checking if the statement is true. Senate Bill 5231, sponsored by Saloman, will establish a process for issuing an emergency domestic violence no-contact order. It is awaiting assignment to the senate floor. Bill sponsors want to make it easier for officers to remove guns at the scene of a domestic violence incident and create immediate consequences for a defendant who later gets a gun after receiving the order, he said.

“We don’t need to have officers go back a second time to serve an order, so it’s really important that at the scene, they be given the ability to get an emergency order over the phone by calling a judge,” he said. 

State senator Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) said 20 percent of all murders in Washington are from domestic violence, as well as a quarter of rapes and more than half of simple assaults.

Black, Indigenous and Latinx women are at a higher risk for intimate partner related violence and homicides, Dhingra said. Disparities in homicide rates are seen more among women between the ages of 18 and 29. Almost 60 percent of partner related homicides involve firearms, she said. Compared to other high-income countries, women in the U.S. are more likely to be killed with a gun.

“Those numbers tell a story that the people in our state need to hear,” Dhingra said. “The need is urgent for stronger protections, better services and adequate funding for survivors of domestic violence.”

State representative Amy Walen (D-Kirkland) said most people know someone who domestic violence has affected, whether they know it or not. 

Walen said she used to work with a young man who is now in prison after tracking and killing his former girlfriend. The protection order his girlfriend had against him didn’t make a difference, and the baby they had together witnessed the mother’s murder, she said.

“We must do better to protect those who are stalked, hunted, coerced, threatened and live in fear,” she said. “We owe it to our communities, we owe it to our families, we owe it to the children who watch what we do.”

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