Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Vashon Island Domestic Violence Outreach Services Center
June 16, 2004
Good morning. It’s great to be here on beautiful Vashon Island. And I’m especially honored to be able to meet with the Vashon Island Domestic Violence Center coordinators and community leaders.
Your work in helping victims of domestic violence is vitally important.
Back in March, we scored an important victory for domestic violence victims in our state. That day, I signed into law several public safety bills that will help prevent domestic violence, and protect victims when it occurs.
The bill signing was held in Tacoma because we also gathered that day to remember Crystal Brame, who died in April 2003. Crystal was the victim of years of domestic abuse. Her death left us with somber, agonizing questions: How could this ever have happened? And what can we do to prevent it from ever happening again?
The terrible tragedy of Crystal Brame’s death painfully reminded us that domestic violence is found in every walk of life, every economic class, and every kind of relationship or family. Far too often, this is a concealed but deadly crime. One that comes to light only after it is too late.
Last year 54 people died as a result of domestic violence in Washington. Between 1997 and 2002, there were 390 domestic violence deaths in our state. We know those deaths are just the tip of the iceberg of domestic violence.
Here on Vashon Island, you decided to do something about it. For five years now, you’ve been helping families—some 30 to 40 families a year. You didn’t want to depend on counselors from the mainland and be subject to ferry schedules. You’ve provided safety and shelter, and emergency assistance like food, clothing and transportation. You’ve helped families with counseling and support, safety assessment and planning, agency referrals, and legal advocacy—including help in obtaining protective orders.
You’ve also worked to build a great community partnership here, collaborating with schools, churches, the police, local doctors and counselors and human service agencies. I am very proud of what you are accomplishing to help victims of domestic violence.
Washington state has some of the strongest laws in America against domestic violence. They include mandatory arrest, an expedited process for protective court orders, stiff penalties, and a confidential address registry for victims hiding from their abusers. Allowing victims who quit jobs to receive unemployment compensation and allow victims to terminate rental or lease agreements. We strengthened those laws four years ago, based on recommendations of the Domestic Violence Action Group I appointed after the tragedy of Linda David,who was abused by her state paid caregiver, her husband. We further strengthened those laws with the bills I signed in March.
We also added $2 million to the state budget this year for programs that provide shelter and other help to victims of domestic violence. This is an increase of more than 50 percent in state funding. We hope to help our state’s anti-abuse programs meet the nearly 35,000 requests for help we could not meet last year.
But the strongest laws and unlimited funding will not prevent domestic violence, or protect its victims. Not unless we are all committed to changing the values and attitudes in our culture that allow this violence to flourish.
Whether we are elected officials, police officers, private employers, co-workers, neighbors, landlords, or citizens, let us always remember what our 1999 task force emphasized: Preventing domestic violence is everybody’s business.
Thank you, and keep up the good work.