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Everybody’s Business: Report of the Governor’s Domestic Violence Action Group

October 1999











In Our Homes. . .

In Our Communities . . .

In Our Workplaces . . .

In the Media . . .







The Honorable Helen Halpert
Presiding Judge
Seattle Municipal Court


David Boerner
Associate Professor of Law,
Seattle University School of Law

Jeannie Bryant
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney,
Clark County  

Regina LaBelle
President, Northwest Women’s Law Center

Carlos Olivares
Executive Director, Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic

Rebecca Roe
Schroeter Goldmark & Bender

Kathryn Shore
Department of Health
Governor’s Interagency Committee of State Employed Women

Nan Stoops
Associate Director,
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Dr. Sue Tomita
Haborview Medical Center

Dr. Carolyn M. West
Assistant Professor of Psychology,
University of Washington, Tacoma
Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

Sue Wilkes
Executive Director, Refugee Women’s Alliance

Colleen Wilson
Chief of Police, City of Monroe


Pam Dekay
Phil Jordan
Jill Severn
Dick Van Wagenen
Cathy Wiggins

The Municipal Court of Seattle
Helen L. Halpert Judge

Public Safety Building, Room 1100
Seattle, WA

October 29, 1999

The Honorable Gary Locke
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504-0002

Re: Governor's Action Group on Domestic Violence Final Report

Dear Governor Locke:

I am pleased to transmit to you the report of the Domestic Violence Action Group. Since you appointed us in June, we have met eight times, attended the meetings of other groups working on related issues, and have held sub-committee meetings to research and develop recommendations in specialized areas.

As you requested, we began with a thorough review of the Linda David case, and our recommendations flow, in large measure, from your instruction to look for ways to prevent others from suffering as she did. We are confident that the implementation of our recommendations would dramatically reduce the likelihood of such an incident occurring again.

There are three aspects of our research, and the recommendations that flow from it, that we would like to emphasize. First, we concluded that the most urgent need in this field is to focus more time and resources on preventing domestic violence. Government plays a vital role in providing services to victims and in prosecuting perpetrators. However, the government response is often an after-incident response. A coordinated, community-wide effort is needed to instill the values and norms of behavior that will prevent the occurrence of future acts of domestic violence.

Second, we believe that it is essential that a state domestic violence coordinating council be appointed by you in order to both implement the recommendations of the Action Group and to continue to serve the coordinating function that we informally have served over the past few months. Because the Action Group members came from a variety of disciplines and from a number of different communities, our discussions were particularly fruitful and wide-ranging. We strongly believe that the citizens of our state would be well served by the appointment of a coordinating council.

Finally, we found that within the realm of domestic violence, insufficient attention has been focused on the needs of special populations. Women with disabilities appear to be the group at highest risk for victimization--yet this is a group of women who have received very little attention. Immigrant women, the elderly, sexual minorities and women of color are also slipping through the net of existing programs. Shelter resources, in general, are stretched extremely thin. These resources are even scarcer for special populations. Outside of urban areas, programs intended to meet the needs, of special populations are virtually non-existent.

Each of us gained much from the experience of working with the other members of the Group, and we hope that the lessons that we have learned can be of service to the citizens of Washington in addressing this most serious problem. On behalf of all of us, I wish to thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve as members of the Governor's Action Group on Domestic Violence.

Very truly yours,

Helen L. Halpert></p>
Helen L. Halpert, Chair<br>
Governor's Domestic Violence Action Group 
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Executive Summary

In May, 1999, readers of the Seattle Times were shocked to read about Linda David, who had been rescued on January 31, 1997 from a filthy boat where her husband, Victor David, allegedly had held her captive and beat her for ten years or more. During most of that time, Victor David was paid by the state to take care of her, because she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had chosen him as her caregiver.

The Governor’s Domestic Violence Action Group was convened to examine this case for lessons we can learn about how to prevent the prolonged suffering that Linda David endured. While most of the media attention to the Linda David case focused on blaming government agencies for lack of oversight, the Action Group cast its net much wider, and examined the larger issues of domestic violence and violence perpetrated by caregivers against people with disabilities and the elderly.

The Group found that although there has been substantial progress in prosecuting domestic violence cases, violence in the home is still an enormous problem. Since 1990, 247 Washington women have been murdered by their partners or ex-partners. Last year, there were 14,000 domestic violence convictions in Washington State.  Domestic violence is the leading cause for women’s visits to hospital emergency rooms.

Violence perpetrated in the home by partners and caregivers against people with disabilities and the elderly is a growing problem.The population of elderly is expanding rapidly. More and more elders and people with disabilities are choosing to live at home rather than go to nursing homes or other licensed facilities. Their unique vulnerabilities to abuse cannot be dismissed.

Domestic violence and caregiver abuse share a common source: the perceived need or right to have power and control over another human being.In the heterosexual spousal model of domestic violence, the abuser’s dominance arises from the conviction that men should have power and control over women. For those who abuse people with disabilities and the frail elderly, the abuse arises from the equally barbaric idea that the physically fit have the right to dominate and exploit the physically or developmentally vulnerable.

Attitudes change slowly.There is still resistance to the idea of women’s equality and to the idea that men do not have the right to control and dominate their wives and girlfriends.This resistance has compromised the effective implementation of laws against domestic violence. Similarly, there is resistance to the idea that people with disabilities and the elderly have a right to self-determination and control of their own lives, and that resistance has slowed the development of systems that protect those rights.

But attitudes can and do change.In the last 25 years, we have seen dramatic successes in campaigns to increase the use of seat belts; to decrease the use of tobacco; and to reduce drunk driving. In each of these cases, attitudes and behavior changed because there was a sustained commitment of both private and public resources to make change happen. Citizens organized grassroots efforts. Business, non-profit groups and media organizations pitched in. And government was an active partner with them.

This is what it will take to eradicate domestic violence.Prosecution of the guilty is not enough. We also must also focus on preventing violence by changing attitudes towards women, people with disabilities, and elders.This will be difficult, and it will take time. But it is possible to succeed – if we pull together, and if each of us takes more responsibility for making change happen in our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools and our workplaces.

The first twelve of the 41 recommendations arrived at by this Group address the need for greater citizen engagement in preventing domestic violence by creating a more egalitarian and non-violent culture. Eight recommendations deal with the need for greater coordination among existing systems that deal with domestic violence.The remaining recommendations address changes needed in the justice and social service systems.

Taken together, these recommendations constitute a community-wide strategy for preventing what happened to Linda David from happening to anyone else. We hope that their full implementation will help to create a society in which there is never another battered woman, never another abused elder, and never another victim of caregiver violence.


In May, 1999, readers of the Seattle Times were shocked to read about Linda David, who had been rescued on January 31, 1997 from a filthy boat where her husband, Victor David, allegedly had held her captive and beaten her for ten years or more.At the time of her rescue, Linda David was covered with filth, had fractures that had healed without medical attention, and suffered from severe malnutrition. Authorities suspected her husband of abuse, but more than two years after her rescue, when the Seattle Times first reported on this case, he had still not been charged with any crime.

For more than ten years prior to her rescue, Linda David – who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – had received federal Supplemental Social Security Income and a state-funded stipend to pay for her personal care.She designated her husband as her caregiver.This arrangement meant that Victor David was paid by the state to take care of her.

Until 1996, state law allowed annual renewal of this arrangement by phone.But in 1996, at the request of DSHS, the Legislature passed a measure that required in-person reassessment for continuation of home care services. Caseworkers then demanded to see Linda David. When Victor David refused to allow anyone to see her, the benefits were cut off. Victor came to Olympia, and protested to the Governor’s office and to the Department of Social and Health Services. Ironically, it was Victor’s vehement protests that drew the attention of state officials and led to Linda David’s rescue.

This disturbing and tragic story raised a host of questions.Why was a doctor’s report suggesting that she was being beaten never heeded? Why didn’t DSHS caseworkers call the police when they first suspected she was being abused? Why did it take more than two years after her rescue for charges to be filed against Victor David? Why didn’t Linda David’s family or neighbors check up on her? Why didn’t anyone intervene on her behalf for such a terribly long time?

While Washington state Governor Gary Locke wanted to know the answers to these questions, his most urgent concern was to make sure that no one else was enduring what Linda David had endured.His first action was to order the immediate review of 5,000 more cases where the state pays individuals chosen by people with disabilities to care for them.

The Governor’s longer-term goal is to prevent what happened to Linda David from ever happening again.He wanted to examine this case for lessons that can teach us how to make Washington a safer place for women, and for people with disabilities and elders who rely on others for their personal care. This is what the Governor’s Domestic Violence Action Group has tried to do.


The Linda David case was our starting point, and we examined the record of what happened to her very carefully.We had the full cooperation of every state and local government agency that came into contact with Linda and Victor David.

Members of the Everett Police Department, the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office, the state Department of Social and Health Services, and the state Attorney General’s office met with us to help us understand why the system took so long to rescue Linda David and to prosecute Victor David.

We also heard from a number of other experts.Some were members of our Action Group; others were invited to supplement the Group’s knowledge. These speakers discussed current programs that show promise in combating domestic violence and overcoming the obstacles to progress within state and local government, police departments, prosecutors’ offices, the courts, and the health care community. Group members also attended and observed meetings of groups like Seattle’s POET (Protecting Our Elders Together) network, and held discussions on specific issues with the Northwest Women’s Law Center.

The Linda David case also raises issues that go beyond the traditional definition of domestic violence: violence perpetrated by one intimate partner or family member against another as part of a pattern of behavior that maintains the perpetrator’s power and control over the victim.What happened to Linda David was also a case of violence by a caregiver against a person who was particularly vulnerable because of a disability. So we asked advocates for people with disabilities and the elderly to talk with us about efforts to protect these especially vulnerable populations from violent or abusive caregivers. We learned that this issue needs more attention and will surely grow in importance, as the number of people with disabilities and the elderly increases and as more people choose to receive care in their homes rather than go to nursing homes or other facilities.

We also listened to the concerns of refugee and immigrant women, for whom cultural isolation and the language barrier can be overwhelming obstacles to getting the help they need to escape from violence. And we learned about the special issues affecting women in rural areas, people of color and same-sex couples. For each of these groups, there is a special sense of isolation, and therefore a greater difficulty in escaping from abusive relationships.

Finally, we also spent a lot of time talking about how our society as a whole has dealt with domestic violence.We quickly came to the unanimous conclusion that domestic violence is not a problem that government alone can solve.

It would have been easy to focus only on government’s role, because government keeps records, and the actions or inaction of government agencies can therefore be traced and analyzed.Certainly we all believe that government agencies and the criminal justice system should be held accountable for doing their jobs. But to focus on government alone would beg the larger questions that haunted all of us: Why would any human being do what Victor David is alleged to have done? What can ordinary citizens do to prevent this kind of abuse, and to stop it when it does happen? How can we change our culture to reduce or eliminate domestic violence, and violence against the elderly and the people with disabilities? Do we expect more of government than it can deliver?

Asking these questions led us to trace the history of domestic violence, to analyze its causes and motivations, and also to look ahead, and to think about what actions we must take to create a society in which there is never another battered woman, never another abused elder, and never another victim of caregiver violence.


Until the late 19th century, American law did not prohibit men from beating their wives.The only legal dispute about domestic violence was how severely women could be beaten, and what weapons could legally be used.

The legality of wife-beating grew out of the expectation that women should obey their husbands, and that men should dominate and control their wives.The use of violence to enforce these expectations was unquestioned until the advent of the women’s rights movement in the middle of the 19th century. Advocates for women’s equality succeeded in changing the law. They did so not only because they opposed violence, but because they opposed men’s dominance over women. Then, as now, male violence against women was one of an array of behaviors that enforced women’s second-class status and assured men’s power and control in the family, in the workplace, and in public life.

But while wife-beating became illegal in most states over 100 years ago, the effective enforcement of laws against domestic violence did not begin until the more recent women’s rights movement lobbied for and won further reforms in the late 1970s and 80s.In the century between, most women had nowhere to turn when they were abused and no expectation that their plight would evoke the sympathy or the moral outrage that domestic violence engenders today.

In Washington, the Domestic Violence Act of 1979 first made it clear that assault in the home was a crime equal in seriousness to assault anywhere else.The 1979 act:

This law was a groundbreaking testament to changes in social attitudes, not just about domestic violence but also about women’s right to equality within the family and society.And unlike previous legal reforms against domestic violence, this law did not sit on a shelf and gather dust.

It was followed in 1984 by the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, which strengthened both criminal and civil remedies for victims.It outlined specific procedures for issuance of protection orders for victims, and called for mandatory arrest of suspected abusers. In 1985, this act was amended to clarify that police must arrest only the primary aggressor in domestic violence cases.

Beginning in 1980, Washington state government also began to fund shelters for women who needed to escape from domestic violence.The state also funded a domestic violence hotline and a state coalition of advocates for domestic violence victims and survivors. Taken together, Washington’s tough laws and network of shelters made our state a national leader in the prosecution of domestic violence and the protection of its victims.

But these reforms, important as they have been to thousands of women and their children, have still not afforded adequate protection to all who need it, nor have they held all abusers accountable for their crimes.There are still not nearly enough shelter beds to serve all the women who need them. Refugees, immigrants, women of color, and older women are less likely to use the law or the shelter network because of language and cultural barriers. And shelters are often inaccessible for women with disabilities and women in rural areas.

There is an even larger limitation in the scope and purpose of today’s system for dealing with domestic violence.This system was created to cope with male violence against women, which, though it is the predominant form of domestic violence, is clearly not the only form of victimization of people in their homes.

Domestic violence and caregiver abuse against people with disabilities and the frail elderly are against the law.But these types of victimization have been less discussed, less understood, and less the subject of advocacy and reform than the violence in the rest of the population.

In the late 19th century, it was not uncommon for people with disabilities or mental illnesses to be literally locked in the family attic, and hidden from view.Family members with such conditions had come to be regarded as a source of shame or embarrassment.

In more recent times, violence and other forms of abuse of people with disabilities and the elderly were regarded as a natural result of the stress of caring for them.Sympathy was more likely to be accorded to the caregiver/aggressor than to the victim.

Until 1970, there was no organized movement of people with disabilities to advocate for change in this state of affairs.In the last 30 years, advocates for people with disabilities have had an uphill battle to dismantle the barriers of prejudice and misconception that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in the lives of their families, their communities, and their country. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1999 legislative session that the Adult Protective Service of DSHS was mandated to investigate complaints of abuse of all disabled adults who are under 60 years old and receiving state-funded care. Prior to this legislation, the mandate of APS was to investigate suspected abuse of the elderly, and adults with developmental disabilities, but not adults with physical disabilities.

Yet recent research shows that women with disabilities are at much greater risk of abuse by their male partners.And regardless of gender, people with disabilities and elders who must rely on others for help with the tasks of daily living are also vulnerable to abuse and financial exploitation by both family members and caregivers.

The vast majority of people with disabilities and the elderly would much rather stay in their own homes and communities than live in a nursing home.In the past few years, there has been a significant movement towards accommodating this desire. More home-based services are now available; more group homes have been established, and more adult day care programs have been started. Nearly all of these services are provided by private contractors rather than government employees. In many cases, the person with a disability or the frail elder can choose his or her caregiver.

These new arrangements can be liberating and empowering. But people with disabilities and the frail elderly may not have the training they need to effectively supervise the people they hire to care for them. Greater choice in care arrangements can also create the need for new ways to monitor the quality of care.

There can be no doubt that people with disabilities and the elderly have a right to choose how and where they will live and who will care for them.But there can also be no doubt that society has the same obligation to them that it does to victims of domestic violence – and that is the obligation to vigorously prosecute abusers, to afford these citizens full and equal protection of the law, and to find effective ways to prevent violence and reduce risk and vulnerability.

For people with disabilities and the elderly, the issues of abuse are both different and the same as they are for victims of domestic violence.The issues are power and control. In the heterosexual spousal model of domestic violence, the abuser’s dominance arises from the conviction that men should have power and control over women.

For those who abuse people with disabilities and the frail elderly, the abuse arises from the equally barbaric idea that the physically fit have the right to dominate and exploit the physically or developmentally vulnerable.

If the Linda David case taught us anything, it is that the dramatic progress we have made still has not been enough – not nearly enough – to protect women, people with disabilities, and the elderly from the private hell of violence in the home.

Linda David’s case is not the only one that demonstrates this sad fact.Since 1990, 247 Washington women have been murdered by a current or former intimate partner. Last year, 14,000 people were convicted of domestic violence in Washington state. Nationally, the most conservative estimate is that one million women a year suffer violence by an intimate partner. Others estimate that 3.9 million women are victimized. Battering tends to be part of a pattern, not a one-time occurrence. During the six months following an episode of domestic violence, 32% of women report being victimized again.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of visits to hospital emergency rooms by women.More than half of all homeless women and their children are fleeing domestic violence, and shelters for battered women cannot accommodate nine out of ten women who come to them. Every year, 3.3 million children witness violence against their mothers, and between 40% and 60% of the men who abuse women also abuse their children.

There is no profile of who is likely to be battered; women of all races and cultures and all walks of life are at risk.Women with disabilities, however, may be at greatest risk. The FBI reports that in the population as a whole, one out of four women will, at some time in her life, be the victim of ongoing domestic abuse. A Colorado Department of Health study found that 85% of women with disabilities were victims of abuse.

The obstacles to escaping from an abusive relationship are still enormous.Women are at the greatest risk of serious assault or murder when they leave or attempt to leave an abuser. One study found that women attempt to leave batterers an average of seven times before succeeding. Success may require a safe place to hide from the abuser, temporary income support, help to find a job, child care, counseling, and legal assistance to resolve issues such as separation, divorce, and child visitation and support. For women who also face the barriers of language, culture, rural isolation, or disability, the prospect of leaving is especially daunting.

Attitudes change slowly.There is still resistance to the idea of women’s equality and to the idea that men do not have the right to control and dominate their wives and girlfriends. This resistance has compromised the effective implementation of laws against domestic violence. Similarly, there is resistance to the idea that people with disabilities and the elderly have a right to self-determination and control of their own lives. That resistance has slowed the development of systems that protect those rights.

We can do better.We can make progress faster. We can all work harder to create more responsive criminal justice and social service systems. We can do more to educate ourselves and the public about the nature of domestic violence and its causes. And we can all be more forceful advocates for equality, inclusion, and non-violence.


After close examination of the Linda David case and intensive study of similar issues affecting special populations, the frail elderly and people with disabilities, we identified the following barriers to further progress in combating domestic violence:

Our recommendations are designed to dismantle these barriers.These recommendations are addressed not only to state and local governments, but also to advocacy groups, employers, the media, and citizens, because stopping domestic violence is everybody’s business.



Everyone has something to contribute to the struggle to end domestic violence. Each of us has the power to be an agent for change in our family, our school, our neighborhood, our workplace and our culture. And whether we intend to be or not, each of us is a role model for the children around us. If every citizen used these powers constructively, it would make an enormous difference in our ability to prevent domestic violence and to stop it quickly when it does happen.

Moreover, it is individual citizens – and the organizations they belong to – that can make the biggest difference in preventing domestic violence. Most of the government agencies that deal with this issue are responsible for intervening when violence has already occurred. Our courts and social service agencies are overwhelmed by these tasks, and there is never enough funding to serve all victims. If action is not taken to reduce and prevent the incidence of domestic violence, there never will be enough.

Government agencies cannot make our culture less violent, or improve our values, or teach our children to respect each other and themselves. Only citizens can do these things. And nothing makes a bigger difference than citizens who do.

In Our Homes. . .

One of the prime indicators of future domestic violence for individuals is whether their family of origin had a history of domestic violence. To change the culture of violence, we must work to decrease the incidence of family violence and make violence-free families the norm. While the societal problems of domestic violence are deeply rooted in balance of power issues, there are ways in which we can decrease the incidence of violence in families.

In Our Communities . . .

Over the past few decades, too many of us have gone too far in our quest for privacy. Fences have gotten taller, and neighbors have become strangers. Now we need to restore the networks of friendship and mutual concern that led neighbors to watch out for each others’ children and bring casseroles when someone was ill. These are the networks that can help prevent isolation and victimization.

We can make a difference by participating in activities in our neighborhoods and communities to prevent violence. Most incidents of domestic violence go unreported. In cases where domestic violence is reported, families, neighbors and co-workers are usually the first point of contact.

In Our Workplaces . . .

In our workplaces and professions, we can also make a positive difference in preventing violence and abuse. We can all work to make sure that employee newsletters and bulletin boards include anti-violence messages and information about resources for victims. And most of us can think of ways that our workplace or our profession can contribute some special expertise to solving this problem. For instance, legal assistance for domestic violence victims is in short supply, and is greatly needed. Women who are leaving abusive relationships often also need help with child care, housing, clothing, transportation, and finding a job. And most of all, they need friends.

We can also intervene to stop domestic violence when it happens. Victims of domestic violence come into contact with many people in the course of the day through their workplace, place of worship, union, health care provider, beautician, etc. These points of contact provide prime opportunities for helping victims change their lives.

Employers have special opportunities to prevent domestic violence and help its victims. Employers also have a special motivation to do so: domestic violence often spills into the workplace, endangering everyone. Domestic violence is also the cause of more absenteeism and lost productivity than is ever measured.

Most important, however, the workplace is often the best and most logical place for victims to look for help. All victims should be able to find it.

In the Media . . .

The media is a powerful force for change. Providing information on identifying domestic violence and community resources that are available for domestic violence victims can literally save lives. Public service announcements like the Mariners Care anti-violence campaign can make a difference.

Media messages also can help create powerful social changes by educating the public. Media messages have helped to dramatically reduce smoking, to increase the use of seatbelts, and to alert people to the importance of turning down the thermostats on their hot water heaters to avoid scalding children. On all these issues, attitudes and behaviors have changed dramatically, in large part due to consistent, repeated media messages that encouraged change. The media can make an even bigger difference by making it clear that domestic violence is totally unacceptable.


Dealing with domestic violence often requires coordination among different service systems and organizations that do not ordinarily work together. But all too often, the criminal justice system, social service agencies, advocates for people with disabilities, the elderly, and domestic violence victims do not understand each other. The result is that people do not get the services they need, when they need them. This problem is especially common when a domestic violence victim is elderly or is a person with a disability.

People working in these separate functions need to understand each others’ roles, responsibilities, capabilities, and limitations. Formal training and interagency protocols can help promote understanding and effective cooperation, but there is no substitute for personal contact and the development of relationships and networks over time among professionals.

Since the early 1980s, a group of King County professionals who work with abused and neglected senior citizens have sustained such a network. Now known as Protecting Our Elders Together (POET), this group includes representatives of the Seattle Police Department, Seattle and King County prosecutors, Aging and Disability Services, Harborview Medical Center’s Social Work Department, domestic violence advocates, Adult Protective Services, and other agencies that deal regularly with seniors who have been abused, neglected, or exploited. Participants discuss recent cases that presented unusual challenges, share information from conferences and training they have attended, and learn more about each others’ functions and problems.

POET is an informal group that probably has counterparts in many other areas of the state. It is effective because of continuity of membership, regular attendance, and effective participation in meetings. Participants’ employing agencies understand the importance of this interchange and make time available for it. The understanding and relationships developed in POET make its participants more effective, both individually and when they collaborate, in serving the elderly. POET’s focus is on senior citizens and on a wide range of issues besides domestic violence. But it is a powerful model for professionals working with the disabled and other special populations affected by domestic violence.

In 1987, the Legislature required DSHS to create Child Protection Teams (RCW 74.14B.030). Chosen by DSHS regional administrators, these teams include law enforcement officers, physicians, mental health and substance abuse counselors, and other professionals who deal with abused and neglected children. They meet when needed to discuss cases that present unusual difficulty and risk. This process improves decision-making and helps Child Protective Services professionals make difficult choices about when and whether to remove children from their homes.

Adult Protective Services staff sometimes face equally difficult decisions about whether it is safe to allow an elderly or disabled client to remain in or return to their home and when to seek court-ordered guardianship. The Child Protection Team model could be adapted for use by APS, assuring the availability of trained professionals independent of DSHS in cases where consulting with them could produce better-informed decisions.

One of the critical links among agencies and professionals dealing with domestic violence is the 911 emergency response system. Not only does this system dispatch police officers to domestic violence emergencies, it also receives calls asking police to “check the welfare” of individuals who may be in distress and to accompany social service workers when necessary to keep the peace during an investigation or intervention to help a client.

The Action Group is concerned that 911 operators may not fully communicate the content and nature of these kinds of calls to the officers dispatched to respond. This may result in confusion over the purpose of the call and officers’ role at the scene.

During its brief existence, this Action Group has served as a clearinghouse for concerns about domestic violence. The Group was able to clarify the capabilities of the State Patrol’s computer system for tracking protection orders and to facilitate discussions concerning how the needs of domestic violence victims in the WorkFirst program could be better met. The Group has also served as an information exchange about existing programs in some parts of the state that can be adapted elsewhere.

A multi-disciplinary approach to domestic violence is not a new idea. There have been two recent statewide, multi-disciplinary Domestic Violence Summits, and the Supreme Court’s Gender and Justice Commission produced a major report in 1991. With funding from the federal Violence Against Women Act, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence has created a multi-disciplinary fatality review program that brings together law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, local victim advocates, health professionals and others to review and analyze domestic violence cases that end in murder. Local summits in several counties have produced concrete results as well as improved understanding. Many communities have formed task forces or coalitions against domestic violence to bring together professionals, advocates, and citizens to act on this issue. A similar initiative at the state level could act as a catalyst for change throughout Washington.


People with disabilities are especially vulnerable to domestic violence. They may be more dependent on a spouse or other caregiver, less able to communicate with police or social service workers, or less mobile. Traditional shelter and advocacy programs are often not accessible or equipped to serve them. Too little is known about the nature and frequency of victimization of citizens with disabilities or about the strategies that could be deployed to prevent their victimization.

Many victims of domestic violence try to conceal their victimization, and they may not be direct in their pleas for help. One woman, for instance, took the family dog to the animal shelter to protect it from being beaten by her husband. A discerning animal shelter staff member recognized that if the dog was in danger, the wife probably was, too. She talked with the woman privately, and provided her with information on local shelter services.

But most people who come into contact with domestic violence victims do not have the training to recognize and help them.


The criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence typically begins when police are called to the scene of an assault or disturbance, usually in a home or other private property where there are no impartial witnesses. Officers must often evaluate conflicting accounts of what happened. They sometimes find victims reluctant to prosecute their abusers. They must determine what actions to take to protect victims, hold abusers accountable, and assure that prosecutors and courts have the information they need to handle each case properly. In cases where the victim is elderly or disabled, the challenges may be even more difficult.

State laws and policies clearly support protecting victims and holding batterers accountable, but implementing those policies in specific cases requires training and experience. The state’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy, which all officers must complete when they are hired, provides training in handling domestic violence cases. This training is being improved as part of an increase in Academy hours recently funded by the Legislature.

While the state does not require further training after the Academy, many law enforcement agencies provide it. For example, last year 85% of officers in Snohomish County received eight hours of multidisciplinary training on domestic violence. The Seattle and Spokane Police Departments have also provided inservice training recently. Ongoing officer training in domestic violence is important for every jurisdiction, as laws change and we gain better understanding of this problem, including its impact on the elderly, people with disabilities, and other populations.

Over the last 20 years, the Legislature has provided a number of options for victims of domestic violence who need a court order protecting them from their abuser. The three most common types of orders are (1) criminal no-contact orders under chapter 10.99 RCW, (2) domestic violence protection orders under chapter 26.50 RCW, and (3) restraining orders issued in conjunction with a divorce under chapter 26.09 RCW.

A violation of the restraint provisions of any of these orders is a separate crime. The penalties, however, differ. A violation of a criminal no-contact order or a domestic violence protection order is a gross misdemeanor; a violation that involves an assault or act of reckless endangerment, or that results in a third conviction for violating such an order is a felony. A violation of a restraining order issued in conjunction with a dissolution is always a simple misdemeanor.

The Legislature, in chapter 74.34 RCW, has also authorized courts to issue protective orders in cases of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment of vulnerable adults. In 1999, the Legislature broadened the definition of “vulnerable adult” to include people who are under 60 years old and are not developmentally disabled, adjudicated incapacitated, or receiving care in a state-licensed facility, but are receiving care from a state-funded individual provider. Either the victim or DSHS, on the victim’s behalf, may petition the court for such an order. However, violations of these orders are not defined as crimes, and police are not required to arrest violators with probable cause, even if the orders were issued because of domestic violence. DSHS is not authorized to seek protection orders under chapter 26.50 RCW which are enforceable through mandatory arrest and more severe penalties.

Court orders seeking to protect victims of domestic violence generally prohibit the batterer from contacting the victim and from entering the victim’s home, workplace, or school, or the school or day care of the victim’s child. Often, courts also prohibit the batterer from coming within a specified distance of the victim’s home or other location. A court order prohibiting the batterer from entering the home will offer little protection if it allows him to “stake out” the home or wait on the sidewalk for the victim to leave.

However, the State Court of Appeals, Division II, recently ruled that coming within a prohibited distance of the victim’s home, while punishable as contempt of court, did not constitute a crime under RCW 26.50.110 because such a prohibition is not a “restraint provision” within the meaning of that statute (State v. Chapman, 96 Wn. App. 495 (1999)). In that case, the batterer was standing in the bushes across the street from the victim’s apartment, despite a court order requiring him to stay at least a mile away from the residence. The Chapman court recognized that the conduct of a batterer who lurks near a victim’s home or workplace may be almost as threatening and disturbing to the victim as direct contact. The court invited the Legislature to amend the statutes criminalizing violations of a protection or no-contact order to include violation of a provision requiring the defendant to stay a specified distance away from a home, workplace or school.

A judge has broad authority to prohibit a defendant from possessing a firearm when issuing an order for the protection of a domestic violence victim. Certainly after conviction, a judge has wide discretion to prohibit a perpetrator from possessing a firearm. However, no statute provides for any specific mechanism for the enforcement of such orders. It is not even clear how the agency should handle the weapon – as forfeited or as held temporarily pending some other resolution by the court.

King County law enforcement agencies have recently formed a task force to develop appropriate procedures to enforce “possess no firearm” orders, and other local agencies may benefit from such a process as well.

Records of court actions are maintained in the Judicial Information System (JIS), administered by the Office of the Administrator for the Courts (OAC). Most judges and court personnel have computerized access to JIS records showing defendants’ criminal history and other relevant information. RCW 26.50.160, enacted in 1995, requires that, by 1997, all courts have access to a JIS database that includes the names of the parties and cause number for every domestic violence no-contact order under Title 10 RCW and every protection order under Title 26 RCW. With that information, a judge can know about orders issued in other courts to protect a particular victim or restrain a particular batterer. Such information is essential to enforce these orders and avoid conflicting orders from different courts.

However, OAC has informed the Action Group that only 166 of approximately 300 courts enter information about protection orders into the database. Some smaller and part-time municipal courts do not handle domestic violence cases; they refer them to the district courts covering the same geographic areas. But other courts apparently remain outside the system designed to provide domestic violence victims with the protection of court orders throughout the state.

The JIS database of protection orders includes those entered in criminal cases under chapter 10.99 RCW and those entered in civil cases under chapters 26.09, 26.10, 26.26, and 26.50 RCW. However, it does not include protection orders issued on behalf of vulnerable adults pursuant to RCW 74.34.110, the kind of order Linda David obtained after her rescue. This means courts may not be aware of such orders when victims or abusers come before them in other cases.

Information is useful only if it is easily accessible. Although the (OAC) has recently developed a new electronic report that summarizes orders issued involving the parties currently before the court, it is still somewhat difficult to access detailed information about particular orders. In many courts, domestic violence protection orders are issues on very busy calendars. It is important that judges and commissioners have easy access to all the necessary information.

Interpreters must now be provided for any person who cannot fully participate in a legal proceeding because of a hearing or speech impairment or because of an inability to speak or understand English. RCW 26.50.055 specifically requires the court to provide an interpreter to assist a person who cannot otherwise prepare the forms and participate in a hearing to obtain a domestic violence protection order.

Based on anecdotal evidence, the Group is concerned that, although courts provide interpreters to defendants, less care is taken when the victim or another witness needs assistance. Judges must be diligent in ensuring that all participants in a trial or proceeding can fully participate and that interpreters are present for those who need them. Prosecutors should contact victims and other witnesses before trial for many reasons – including the need to determine language difficulties in advance of the trial. Finally, police officers should be trained to indicate in their police reports when there was difficulty communicating with a victim or other witness, so that appropriate care can be taken when the prosecutor prepares the case.

When a person is convicted of a crime in Superior Court, RCW 7.68.035 requires payment of a penalty assessment in addition to any fine, restitution, or other cost the court imposes. This assessment is $500 for felonies and gross misdemeanors, and $250 for misdemeanors. The funds are divided between the county and the state, and used to support victim assistance, victim compensation, criminal justice training, and other public purposes. However, this penalty assessment is not imposed on defendants convicted of crimes in district or municipal courts. In addition to increasing accountability for crimes of domestic violence, such an assessment could provide funds for prevention and services to victims.


When Adult Protective Services and other professionals investigate possible abuse, it is generally considered a good practice to interview the alleged victim alone, outside the presence of the possible abuser or anyone else who might influence the victim’s statements or whose presence might make the victim less willing to provide all relevant information. Recently adopted DSHS policy is to interview possible victims alone under most circumstances. In some instances, such as a language or other communication barrier, a third party may have to be present, but such a third party should never be a suspected abuser or anyone who might influence what the victim tells the interviewer.

Adult Protective Services publicizes a telephone number for reporting abuse or neglect, but in many parts of the state this number is staffed only during the work week. The APS phone number is not intended for reporting emergencies. However, hospital emergency room staff and others who see victims on a 24-hour basis should not have to wait to provide APS with information that they may be required by law to report. Delays are not only inconvenient for those making reports; they may result in less accurate information when, for example, a social worker or a nurse on duty Monday morning calls in a report based on observations of another professional who saw the victim Saturday night.

Many domestic violence victims must seek public assistance through the state’s WorkFirst program, often because they lack income after separating from an abuser. Federal and state laws require that DSHS make efforts to tailor program requirements to their special circumstances and needs. For example, victims may have difficulty meeting work, training, or job search requirements when they are still looking for secure housing or coping with the traumatic effects of domestic violence. Further, victims may not readily disclose the violence to their case managers because of embarrassment or mistrust. Local domestic violence programs can help case managers serve WorkFirst participants better when there is clear communication and active collaboration between DSHS offices and local programs.

To improve the WorkFirst program’s response to domestic violence, DSHS should:

In addition to services to victims, some judges and other professionals believe treatment of batterers is an appropriate part of a comprehensive response to domestic violence. Treatment, when appropriate, should be part of a response that holds batterers accountable and reduces the likelihood of their re-offending. State law gives DSHS responsibility to set standards of quality and accountability for batterer treatment programs, certify those meeting the standards, and monitor their operations to assure that standards continue to be met.

However, DSHS has only one part-time employee responsible for monitoring and enforcing standards for batterer treatment programs. This is not an adequate staffing level to assure the quality and accountability these programs must maintain.

Many communities across the state have coalitions to fight domestic violence through community education, prevention, law enforcement, and services to victims. These coalitions usually include a range of service providers such as shelter providers, victim advocates, police and prosecutors, health professionals, and community leaders. Because meeting the needs of people of color, people with disabilities, same-sex couples, the elderly, refugees, and immigrants may be especially difficult, it is important that statewide and local coalitions, as well as programs serving victims, reach out to these populations as actively as possible.

  • Community coalitions against domestic violence, and programs serving domestic violence victims, should actively seek participation of members of minority, disabled, elderly, immigrant and refugee, and sexual minority communities on boards and committees.

The Legislature should set aside or increase funding for domestic violence services to special populations.

    Examples of such services are:

  • Bilingual and bicultural advocacy services;

  • Multi-lingual crisis lines

  • Multi-lingual public and community education and organizing;

  • Services for children who witness domestic violence;

  • Services meeting the special needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered victims;
    Shelters accessible to victims with disabilities and with programming designed to serve special populations.

Elderly and disabled adults who receive state-funded care are sometimes at risk of abuse by caregivers, who may be relatives, employees, or both. When caregivers are employed by home care agencies, the agency is responsible for assuring the quality of care. But when the caregiver is employed directly by the client, as under the “individual provider” program in which Linda David participated, there are fewer safeguards to assure quality and prevent abuse. In some cases, the disabled or elderly client, though dissatisfied with the quality of care, may have difficulty communicating that concern or fear loss of care if he or she reports abuse, neglect or exploitation by the caregiver. DSHS is funding, on a pilot basis, training for clients to help them more effectively manage their paid caregivers through assertiveness, conflict resolution skills, and effective hiring and firing practices.

  • DSHS should expand availability of this training, on a voluntary basis, for elderly and disabled clients receiving home care services from individual providers.

Domestic violence victims who leave their abusers face many problems, including finding alternative housing. Emergency shelters have limited capacity and receive new victims every day. Too often, victims are denied the chance to rent housing because landlords are concerned about damage to the property if the abuser finds out where the victim is living. Barriers to housing make it more difficult for a victim to leave her abuser and protect her own and her children’s safety.

  • The Legislature should prohibit discrimination in housing based on one’s current or former status as a victim of domestic violence. To make this protection meaningful, the Legislature should also prohibit landlords and tenant screening firms from using information about protection orders, or other information from court records, to deny housing to victims who are otherwise qualified to rent.

A victim who has a job and leaves her abuser may not be safe from his retaliation in her workplace. Too often, victims must quit jobs and look for new employment, sometimes in a different community, to protect their safety. But the unemployment compensation system does not provide benefits when someone has to quit a job to escape from domestic violence.

    • The Legislature should allow victims, who left jobs to seek safety or relief from domestic violence, to qualify for unemployment compensation. [1]


For the past twenty years, efforts to end domestic violence have been spearheaded by feminist activists who have worked to protect women and children and to make the legal, medical and social services systems more responsive to their needs.Their pioneering work has accomplished a great deal. The passage of important legislation and the training of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel have dramatically changed the way family violence is treated in the courts. Feminist activists and their allies have also won significant funding to provide services to women and children escaping from domestic violence.

These are important gains, and the Group recognizes the need to continue to improve the criminal justice and social service systems that provide a lifeline to those who suffer from domestic abuse.These systems must become more responsive to the needs of women who face barriers of distance, culture, language, age or disability.

But it is simply not enough to improve the systems that come into play when violence has already occurred.The truth is that no system will ever be perfect. More importantly, if we focus only on what happens after violence has occurred, we will never accomplish the more important task of finding ways to make domestic violence abhorrent and unthinkable.

American culture can produce new taboos.In the past few years, our culture has significantly reduced smoking, made bicycle helmets and infant car seats ubiquitous, and made the sight of a pregnant woman with a drink in her hand troubling. These changes have come about because the public became aware of the suffering that could be prevented by changing our behavior.

Ending domestic violence will be harder because it requires changing the nature of relationships.All of us must embrace the values of equality, non-violence and mutual respect -- not just as abstract ideas, but as bedrock principles that guide all our interactions with our romantic partners, our spouses, our children, and our elders. To end domestic violence, we have to let go of the idea of dominance.

To end domestic violence, we also have to let go of the idea that government will do it for us.Government is not in charge of creating cultural norms; we are. We have the power to create a culture that celebrates equality, diversity and non-violence. If we do nothing to try to change attitudes towards women, towards power, and towards violence, we remain complicit in the perpetuation of a culture of violence.

To some, our faith in grassroots change by ordinary citizens may seem like a Utopian vision.But every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And fundamental social change begins with the belief that such change is possible.

[1] Pursuant to Canon of Judicial Conduct 7(A)(5), Judge Halpert did not participate in the discussion or adoption of this recommendation.

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