Home is anything but safe for domestic violence victims, but has been an especially dangerous place during the recent COVID-19 “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order in Washington state. Between February and March, there was a 21% increase in domestic abuse calls, reported by the Seattle Police Department. The opportunities for abuse and control only increase the longer a couple is forced to be inside together. Victims are encouraged to use the courts remotely, in order to flatten the rise of domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is when a loved one hurts you physically, threatens you, or touches you in a way you find offensive. It typically involves a pattern of abusive behavior by an individual toward an intimate partner or family member. The abusive behavior is often used as a method to gain and keep control over the victim. Forms of domestic violence include several types of abuse, such as:
Physical and sexual assault: for example, punching, pushing, denying medical treatment, or forcing a victim to engage in unwanted sexual contact.
Emotional: Attacking a victim’s feelings of self-esteem and self-worth through continual criticism and other tactics.
Psychological: Using intimidation to cause fear, including threats to harm the victim, loved ones, children or pets.
Economic: Prohibiting the victim from working, or blocking access to funds.
In addition, stalking and cyberstalking are usually considered forms of domestic abuse.
Increased Risks During COVID-19
Although domestic violence existed long before the COVID-19 outbreak, the risk of occurrences has increased as governments have implored residents to stay home to protect themselves. The rise in the risk of domestic violence may be attributed to:
Heightened financial stress and pressures.
An increase in alcohol or drug consumption.
The purchasing or hoarding of guns and weapons as an emergency measure.
Lack of community resources.
Lack of access to family and friends.
What Protections are in Place?
If you or your child is currently a victim of domestic violence or your safety has been threatened by an abuser, it is important to take legal action as soon as possible. However, if you are in immediate danger, do not hesitate to first call 911.
Orders of protection and restraining orders can be sought through your local district attorney. They are meant to keep distance between the alleged abuser and his or her victim. An experienced domestic violence attorney can assist you with the process.
The Court Hearing
After a temporary protective order is in place, you will have a scheduled hearing. At this hearing, you may ask for the protective order to be extended, and the alleged abuser has the opportunity to state their case in defense. If you do not show up for this hearing, your temporary order will expire. If the abuser does not show up, the judge may reschedule the hearing or grant you an extended protective order.
Gun Control Laws
A gun in the hands of an abuser increases the chances of a woman being killed by 500 percent. A federal law in place, called the Lautenberg Amendment, provides basic protection by prohibiting the owning or purchasing of a firearm by those who are convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors. However, only if they fit certain criteria.
Under 18 USC 922(g) federal law, an “intimate partner” or a child of an abuser is protected, by prohibiting some abusers who are subject to protective orders from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
In 2014, Washington state enacted a law that requires a person who is subject to a final protective order or temporary restraining order to surrender any firearms and concealed carry licenses in their possession. It is also unlawful for those domestic abusers to purchase a gun (RCW 9.41.800). See our post about gun restrictions on domestic violence offenders to learn more.
Contact a Spokane Family Law Attorney
If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 562-6025 (Voice and TTY). Phone calls are answered 24/7. It is also critical to your situation to seek an attorney who listens, takes appropriate action, and is aggressive on your behalf. Call our Spokane restraining order attorneys at Twyford Law Office today, or reach out to us online, to schedule a free consultation.