The Washington State Domestic Violence Protection Act (RCW 26.50) defines "domestic violence" as "(a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking ... of one family or household member by another family or household member."
Examples of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence as defined above can include any of the following: Actual violent acts like punching, hitting, slapping, pulling the hair, pushing, shoving, tripping or grabbing; use or display of a weapon like a gun or a knife; trapping like blocking a door or driveway for escape; acts which convey the thought of violence like punching a hole in the wall or kicking a dent in the fridge; or words which convey a threat of violence like "if you leave I'll kill you," or "if you file for divorce you'd better watch your back." If children see domestic violence, that is in itself another form of d.v.
How to Apply for Initial Court Protection
Anyone who experiences domestic violence can seek a court protection order by filing a petition on their own behalf, or to protect minors or other household members. The petition should be filed in the county where the petitioner resides, or in the county where the petitioner lived when the abuse occurred. Most county courts offer the free services of d.v. advocates who will help d.v. victims fill out the necessary forms, file the petition, get the initial ex parte protection order, and arrange for service of the order on the abuser. The advocates also have helpful information about d.v. shelters and counseling.
The Domestic Violence Full Hearing
The court normally schedules a full hearing for 14 days after the petition is filed. At that hearing, the petitioner and respondent are both allowed to give brief testimony about what happened. If the commissioner believes that d.v. occurred, a protection order is entered which can prevent contact with the victim for up to one year (longer in exceptional circumstances). The abuser can be ordered to take d.v. or anger management classes. If the commissioner believes that there is insufficient evidence to establish d.v., the petition is usually dismissed.
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