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Domestic violence bills improve victim safety

Victims of domestic violence will get more protection under a package of bills now moving through the state Legislature.

Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, is sponsoring House Bill 1715. The bill challenges the idea that domestic violence victims need to go into hiding and it holds the abusers accountable, she said. The law would initiate statewide requirements for electronic monitoring with victim notification, it changes the process that requires surrendering firearms and it creates 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 just 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 healthcare 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 women are still killed every year in Washington by men they once loved.

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

Another bill sponsored by Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, Senate Bill 5477, extends the missing murdered Indigenous women and people task force.

The law requires 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 also requires a task force to develop recommendations and best practices for the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and health services and seeks to improve communication with the 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 Sen. Jesse Saloman, D-Shoreline.

As a prosecutor and public defender, Saloman said he has seen how easy it is for defendants to say they don’t own a gun and are released without anyone checking to see if the statement is true, he said.

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 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.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said 20 percent of all murders in Washington State 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, she 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 United States 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.”

Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, said a lot of people know someone who has been affected by domestic violence, whether they know it or not.

She used to work with a young man with an incredible career in front of him, who is now in prison after tracking and killing his girlfriend, she said.

The protection order his girlfriend had against him didn’t make a difference, and the baby they had together witnessed its mother’s murder, she said.

“We must do better to protect those who are stalked, hunted, coerced, threatened, 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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