Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence
Acts of domestic violence can be committed by current or former spouses, a live-in partner or former live-in partners, a person with whom you share a child, or even someone you are dating. This page of common questions is here to help those who are learning about domestic violence and how to protect themselves and their family from abusive situations. Domestic violence can be very serious, and many abusers threaten further or more serious abuse if the abused victim reports the activity to authorities.
Do you have a question that isn't addressed below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced Seattle domestic violence attorney.
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What kinds of help can abused immigrant women get for their children?
There are many different protections available for abused or battered women living in the U.S.—even if they are not full legal residents. The U.S. government has provided wives, mothers, and other victims benefits under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides help for abused immigrants who:
- Have been abused by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Are children (under age 21) who have been abused by a US citizen or lawful permanent resident parent.
In addition, you could be eligible for other types of immigration relief even if you are unmarried, if the person who abused you is not a legal resident, or if your abuser is not related to you.
What Kinds of Benefits Could You Get If You Leave an Abusive Situation?
You and your children could get many different benefits, such as health care, shelter, insurance, and other forms of relief such as:
- Emergency Medicaid. This plan allows you and your family to get emergency room treatment, as well as hospital care for cancer treatment and dialysis.
- Insurance. The Washington State Health Insurance Exchange allows abuse victims to get subsidies and help with copays and medical costs.
- Medical Care Services (MCS). This program gives medical assistance to disabled immigrants or victims over age 65.
- Children's and pregnant women's medical services. All low-income pregnant women and their children are eligible for these services (regardless of residency status).
- State Family Assistance (SFA). This program offers cash assistance for eligible families with dependent children.
- Pregnant Women's Assistance (PWA). Provides cash benefits for low-income pregnant women.
- Food Stamps. Women can get help feeding their children through the state-funded Food Assistance Program.
- Working Connections. This program subsidizes the cost of child care for working parents.
The first step you need to take to protect your family is to get away from your abuser. Read the related links on this page to find a safe place to stay nearby, or call the number above to tell us your story.
Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
It’s easy to understand when a woman is afraid to leave her partner because she is afraid that he will hurt her, or even kill her, if she tries to leave. But the truth is that physical violence is only one symptom of abuse.
Control Over a Partner Is The Driving Factor Behind Abuse
Violence is only one method of controlling a partner. While striking or threatening a partner may make them fearful enough to stay, it also gives them a significant reason to leave. By the time a living situation has escalated into violence, an abuser has typically set up many other methods of control to make it extremely difficult for the victim to simply walk away.
Here are a few control methods that abusers use to ensure that their partners feel “trapped” in an abusive relationship:
- Money. The biggest reason women stay in unfavorable relationships is because they believe that they have nowhere else to go. Their partners may own their home, their car, and provide the majority of their income.
- Education. Victims who have not completed as much higher education as their partner may fear that they will be unable to get a job to provide for themselves and their children, or may have been told that they are “not smart enough” to make it on their own.
- Children. Domestic violence affects whole families in Seattle. Women who are afraid that they will be unable to provide for or protect their children if they leave will typically stay in an abusive situation longer than women without children.
- Lack of support. Many cultures look the other way when domestic violence occurs, or do not see it as a viable reason to end a marriage. If a woman is told by her relatives that violence is normal or natural, she will not have the benefit of familial resources when she leaves, and she may be frightened of being alone.
- Psychological trauma. Many women do not take action against their abusers because they are paralyzed by the psychological effects of the trauma.
- Fear of legal issues. Many victims may have been told by their partner that the law will not protect them, that lawyers are expensive, and that the court will not be able to keep a perpetrator away from the victim and her children.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, we can help. Click the contact link on this page and we will contact you privately to listen to your story and explain your options.
Is it possible for my ex-spouse to modify a protection order?
While your spouse cannot make changes to an existing protection order without your knowledge, it is possible for him or her to petition the court to modify—or even cancel—the order of protection.
What Does a Spouse Have to Do to Cancel or Modify a Protection Order in WA?
The first thing your spouse must do is make a motion to the court that provides ample notice to all parties. Your spouse must provide a written declaration that establishes the reasons for the requested change (you are able to file an opposing declaration if you object to the modification). There will then be a hearing to submit and discuss the evidence supporting modification, after which the court will decide whether to grant the motion.
At the hearing, your spouse must prove to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that make him or her extremely unlikely to resume acts of domestic violence against you. Evidence in this case may include:
- Your spouse has not committed or threatened any violent acts toward you since the protection order was issued.
- Your spouse has never violated the terms of the protection order.
- Your spouse has not attempted or threatened suicide since the activation of the order.
- Your spouse has not been convicted of a crime since the protection order was activated.
- Your spouse has acknowledged responsibility for past acts of domestic violence.
- Your spouse has successfully completed a course of domestic violence perpetrator treatment.
- Your spouse no longer exhibits drug or alcohol abuse (if such abuse was named in the protection order).
Merely adhering to these points is not enough; the spouse must prove them to the court by a preponderance of evidence. Even if a substantial change in circumstances can be proved, a modification request may be denied if the court decides that the original act of domestic violence was so severe that the protection order should remain permanently in place.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, click the contact link on this page. We can contact you privately to let you know which options are available to you.
How can I get help if my ex violated a civil protection order in Washington?
It’s a few days before your hearing, and your ex keeps trying to initiate contact with you. You know he has been served with the civil protection order and upcoming court date—but you’re terrified to think that he might show up at your door. What should you do if he violates the term of the protection order?
Who Can I Call for Help If Someone Violates the CPO?
If your ex violates the terms of the CPO, call the police. Your ex will be placed under mandatory arrest if he has attempted to initiate contact with you or enters a shared residence that he has been ordered to vacate. In addition, he could face possible criminal or contempt charges at the hearing.
WA State Penalties for Violation of a CPO Involving Domestic Violence
If your ex violates the protection order and is convicted, he may be ordered by the court to complete a yearlong State-certified domestic violence treatment program. Defendants will have to undergo 26 weeks of individual and group meetings—at their own expense—and must meet exit criteria before being discharged. A judge may also order mandatory alcohol and drug counseling, sexual deviancy treatment, or parenting courses.
If the abuser is convicted of a domestic violence offense, he will typically be placed on supervised probation for two years by the Seattle Municipal Court Probation Department’s Domestic Violence Unit. Probation officers monitor the abuser to ensure that he attends all court-ordered treatment programs and counseling sessions.
Federal Penalties for Violating a CPO
In addition to state mandates, federal law prohibits interstate travel with intent to violate a valid protection order or causing a spouse or partner to cross state lines by coercion, fraud, or force. Abusers may face up to 5 years in prison as a result of a federal protection order violation that results in bodily harm, or life in prison for a violent act that results in the victim’s death.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, we can help. Click the contact link on this page to tell us your story, and we will contact you privately to discuss your options.
How can I help my son or daughter if I think they are in an abusive relationship?
You hope that your children would be able to come to you if they have a problem—even if that problem is embarrassing or could make you lose respect for them. But what if you don’t like the way you daughter’s boyfriend grabs her arm, or the way your son’s girlfriend berates him in front of his friends? Should you speak up, or wait for your children to come to you for help?
What Behaviors Make a Relationship Unhealthy?
There are many different warning signs that your child is in abusive relationship—and even one of these signs could be an indicator of violence behind closed doors:
- Does your child constantly apologize or make excuses for the abuser’s behavior?
- Has your child ever tried to convince you that the abuser’s threats or verbal attacks are “just a joke?”
- Does your child assert that the abuser is “not like this at home?”
- Is your child constantly answering texts or calls from the abuser when they are not together, or always return early from an outing because the abuser wants her home?
- Is your child no longer involved in the same hobbies, groups, or activities that they used to enjoy?
- Have your child’s friends come to you with the same concerns?
- Does the abuser act jealous of other people who are close to your child?
- Is your child incapable of going places without the abuser coming with him/her?
- Does your child dress differently in this relationship than in the past?
- Has the abuser ever had a violent outburst that destroyed your child’s property or broken household objects?
How Should I Handle a Talk With My Child?
No matter how old they get, your sons and daughters will always be children--and as your children, you have a right to protect them from any harm. Talk to them about what you have seen, and make it clear that your only concern is their safety. Avoid assigning blame or passing judgment—you should offer information and give them an easy-to-remember safety plan for an emergency situation.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, click the contact link on this page to let us help explain your options to you.
What should I do if someone I know is suffering from spousal abuse?
Most people don’t like to pry into their friends’ relationships. Even if a couple you know has been having trouble, you respect their privacy. But what if you suspect that one of your friends is being dominated—or even abused—by someone who claims to love them?
Five Ways You Can Help
There are many ways to be supportive and helpful to a friend who is suffering abuse in her relationship. Here are five things you can do today if someone has told you that she is afraid of her spouse or boyfriend:
- Listen to her story – Not only will listening make your friend feel stronger, you may also act as a witness on her behalf in court if the situation escalates.
- Offer help, not advice – Avoid trying to help her “fix” the situation; the abuser will not change his behavior no matter what she does.
- Keep her secret – Many women are afraid to speak out about their abuse because they are ashamed or they are afraid it will get back to the abuser. Keep your conversation in confidence until she has safely relocated.
- Make a plan – Ask your friend specific questions about what she is going to do and where she will go, and don’t accept “I don’t know.” You can tell her it’s only a precaution for an emergency, but it is vital that she has a go-to option if the worst happens.
- Get help – Many victims are afraid to research their situation because they are being watched closely. You can collect names and phone numbers on her behalf and find safe ways to transmit them to her.
The first action you must take is to get your friend away from the abuser and in a safe place where she can regain control. If you are ready to get legal protection from an abusive situation, click the contact link on this page to let us know how we can get in touch with you.
Can “cabin fever” cause domestic violence and abuse?
Let’s be clear—there is absolutely no excuse for domestic violence and family abuse. Although abusers often like to blame others and other circumstances for their outbursts and behavior, it is ultimately their hand that causes the violence.
With that being said, there are circumstances and situations that have been linked to higher rates of domestic violence – factors that can increase the likelihood of abuse. For example, domestic violence has been correlated with drugs and alcohol, financial stress, past abuse, and unemployment.
Although no formal studies have been conducted regarding the relationship between winter weather and domestic violence, many agree that there is a connection between being cooped up in the home during winter and family abuse incidents. Some domestic abuse hotlines have reported up to a 20 percent increase in calls during the winter months and snowstorms, while authorities in the United Kingdom have reported an uptick in domestic violence calls during heavy rains.
Experts say that abuse connected with winter weather and cabin fever probably comes about simply because family members are contained in a small space with little opportunity for escape. Abusers may not have a way to release their anger, while abuse victims may not have a way to escape from the home when tempers start to flare.
If you believe you may be in danger of violence or abuse during the winter months, you should know that there are a number of resources available to you in Washington State and the Seattle area. Please visit our domestic violence resources to learn more about who can help.
If I grew up with domestic violence, is my family more likely to experience abuse?
Unfortunately, yes. A domestic violence study of 1,600 families around the country has found that 80 percent of children who grew up experiencing domestic violence were also involved in domestic violence disputes as adults. Also, that 75 percent of children who grew up with domestic violence reported being the victim of domestic abuse.
However, knowing that you are more likely to experience domestic violence as an adult can help you to avoid this terrible cycle of violence. Simply being aware of the link between growing up witnessing intimate partner abuse and being involved in intimate partner abuse as an adult is a huge step in the right direction. In addition, you may wish to talk to your spouse about domestic violence, seek counseling for past domestic abuse issues, and talk to your kids about domestic abuse. Perhaps the best thing you can do to break the cycle of violence is modeling a loving and kind relationship for your own children to witness.
Taking action when you are the victim of abuse is also vital to stopping the “family tradition” of domestic abuse. Understand that domestic violence is absolutely against the law and that calling the police during a domestic dispute is often the safest action to take for you and your family. Escaping the abuse is the first step toward healing—and the first step toward protecting your children from the long-term consequences of abuse.
If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you may wish to speak with an experienced Seattle domestic violence attorney about the legal aspects of your case. Contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to get your questions answered at 425-460-0550.
What should I do if I see or hear a domestic dispute?
Domestic abuse and domestic violence is far too common and there may come a time when you witness a domestic violence incident or overhear a fight between partners. What should you do?
While all cases are different, here are a few actions that most domestic violence advocates can agree on:
- Keep yourself safe – Although you may wish to be a hero and save the day, domestic disputes can be complex and dangerous—especially if some people involved are out of control. If you feel that the situation is at all unsafe, call the police immediately.
- Remember that it’s not a private family matter – It is a misconception that domestic violence is between family members and therefore not a public issue. Domestic violence is a crime, plain and simple. Would you report other crimes if you saw them committed in public?
- Call the police – A domestic dispute is likely breaking the law, whether someone is being physically assaulted or whether the couple is disturbing the peace. Instead of wondering what to do, let the Seattle Police decide what actions to take and whether someone should be arrested. At the very least, the authorities can deescalate the situation. That’s what they are here for.
If you suspect domestic violence but an assault or dispute is not currently taking place, there are still steps you can take to help. Express your concern to the victim if you are able to do so in a private place. Don’t judge or criticize. Let them know that you are there to help. It is difficult to know what goes on behind closed doors, even if you are close to the person that you think may be suffering abuse in his or her home. However, if you are seeing a large number of warning signs of domestic abuse and domestic violence, you should know that it is important that you speak up. While you should not pressure your loved one or give them advice, you should let them know that you are there for them, listen to what they have to say, and offer any help that you can. In addition, make sure that they know of the many local resources for abuse victims in Washington State.
Do you need the assistance of a Seattle domestic abuse attorney, or do you have a question about domestic violence law? Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to schedule an appointment at 425-460-0550.
Is Verbal Abuse A Crime in Washington?
Verbal abuse and verbal assault are tricky topics when it comes to the law and what constitutes a crime. However, if you can prove that a person such as your partner or spouse threatened to harm you under certain circumstances, verbal abuse may indeed lead to criminal charges.
What Is Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse takes place when words are used to inflict pain, harm, and control over another person. Forms of verbal abuse, which most often takes place between those who are in a relationship or used to be in a relationship, include yelling, swearing, blaming, threats, insulting, name-calling, blaming, and intimidations. Verbal abuse can lead to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, depression, loss of self, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who believe they are victims of verbal abuse should remove themselves from their unhealthy environment as quickly as possible. For help in the Washington State area, click here for a list of local Seattle abuse resources.
Is Verbal Abuse Considered A Crime in Washington?
Generally, verbal abuse and emotional abuse are not themselves crimes. But Washington State does have several laws that are sometimes applied to cases of domestic verbal abuse. For example, a person who is loudly and disruptively shouting at their spouse may be charged with Disorderly Conduct.
More commonly, a person who is verbally abusing his or her spouse or partner may be met with a Harassment charge. It is important to note, however, that this charge requires specific types of verbal abuse: your spouse must threaten you in a manner that is reasonable to believe. In other words, if his or her threats are empty ones, it is not likely that charges will follow. On the other hands, if he or she threatens to assault or kill you and it is reasonable that he or she may do so, a law has been broken.
Aside from the question of whether verbal abuse is a crime in Washington State, it is vital to understand that verbal abuse is often an indicator of emotional abuse and future physical abuse. If your partner or spouse is calling you names, shouting at you, or threatening you, that abuse may escalate to even more damaging forms of abuse. In addition, you should understand that verbal abuse — even if it is not breaking a law — can have serious and long-term effects on your mental health and wellbeing.
Do you need legal assistance regarding verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse? Call a Seattle domestic abuse attorney at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.
What Are the Potential Warning Signs That a Partner Could Become Abusive?
There is no way to tell whether a potential partner is a future abuser or that a boyfriend or girlfriend could become abusive in the future. Abusive partners could appear perfectly normal to others and there is no definitive way to pick them out of a line up. However, there are some common warning signs that may help you avoid an abusive situation:
- Abusers often want to quickly escalate a relationship – they want to move in together or get engaged on an accelerated timeline.
- Abusers may be very charming and charismatic at first – and may use this time to gather sensitive information about you.
- Abusers often display controlling behavior, perhaps related to how you spend your time, who you see, or how you spend your money.
- Abusers are often jealous. While this jealousy may at first seem like concern or caring, it can morph into control and jealous rages.
- Abusers often try to isolate the victim. In early stages, this may involve wanting to spend large amounts of time alone with the victim.
- Abusers may display sudden shifts in mood and personality – charming one moment and frightening the next.
Domestic abuse can be extremely harmful – and domestic violence is just plainly illegal. If you are navigating a divorce or child custody case that involves domestic violence, you may wish to speak with a Seattle domestic abuse attorney. Call Molly B. Kenny today to schedule a private consultation.
How Common Is Domestic Violence in Washington State?
Sadly, it is difficult to know how common domestic violence is in Washington State and across the country because these crimes are often not reported to police. Because domestic abuse occurs among family members, loved ones, or spouses, victims of these crimes will often endure abuse out of fear, embarrassment, or shame. In some cases, domestic violence victims are also emotionally abused and will, in fact, protect their abuser from harm.
But here’s what we do know about domestic violence: it affects women, men, and children. It happens to people of all races, all cultures, all sexual orientations, and all classes. While we don’t know exact numbers, the government estimates that millions of men and women are harmed in domestic violence incidents every year in the United States. One in 12 women will experience domestic abuse during her lifetime, while one in 45 men will also be victims. Domestic violence costs our country an estimated $5.8 billion per year.
What can we do to make domestic violence less common in Washington and the Seattle area? Report all cases of abuse, educate those around you about domestic violence, and raise your children to understand the serious consequences of family abuse.
Do you need the help of a Seattle domestic violence lawyer? Speak to attorney Molly Kenny today about your case by calling 425-460-0550.
How Can I Help Prevent Domestic Violence In Seattle?
Domestic violence is an extremely damaging social issue in Washington State that not only tears families apart but also results in a significant number of assaults, rapes, and murders. While stopping domestic violence should be a priority in Seattle, it can be difficult to know what any one individual can do to stop the cycle of violence. However, there are a few small steps that we can all take to fight back against abusers:
• Call the police if you hear a violent domestic dispute or other domestic violence crime.
• Donate a few hours of your time to a local domestic violence prevention program.
• Educate your children to respect their future partners and peacefully resolve conflicts.
• Educate your children on the issues of domestic violence and domestic abuse.
• Make a donation of supplies or money to a local women’s shelter.
• Familiarize yourself with Washington State domestic violence legal issues and current events.
• Try to live your own life without violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behavior.
If you are being directly affected by domestic violence or domestic abuse, understand that there are a number of resources in Seattle and Washington State that can assist you. If you need legal assistance, speak with a Seattle domestic abuse attorney today.
Does Domestic Violence Occur Between Same-Sex Couples or in LGBT Relationships?
Domestic violence absolutely does occur in gay and lesbian relationships; in fact, researchers believe that same-sex domestic abuse takes place at the same rate as it does for heterosexual couples. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and psychological abuse have nothing to do with gender. Relationships can become violent and harmful in all situations, including in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered partnerships.
Sadly, gay and lesbian abuse victims may be even less likely to report their abuse or to ask for help than heterosexual abuse victims. Some homosexual abuse victims may not tell anyone that they are being abused because they are not yet out to friends and family, while others may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Some gay abuse victims are told by their partners that domestic violence is "normal" for LGBT relationships, while others are told that violence between two people of the same sex is "fair" or "mutual." Neither of these statements is true.
Domestic abuse is never acceptable - no matter your sexual orientation. If you are in a violent relationship in Washington State and need help, please see our list of local resources. If you need the assistance of a Seattle domestic violence attorney, contact Molly B. Kenny today.
Can I Own A Gun After A Domestic Violence Conviction In Washington State?
Every person convicted of a domestic violence crime in Washington State is prohibited from owning and carrying a firearm, even including those who might carry a gun as part of their employment, such as police officers or members of the military. At the time of the domestic violence conviction, a person will be asked to hand over any gun licenses as turn in any firearms. This restriction is permanent, although you may petition the court at a later date to reinstate your right to carry a firearm. Have you been faced with a domestic violence charge? Speak with a Mercer Island domestic violence lawyer today.
How Can I Retrieve My Possessions After A No Contact Order? What Is a Civil Standby?
If you have a no contact order that prevents you from returning to your home, it can be difficult for you to retrieve the possessions that you need, such as clothing and other personal items. In most cases, you can request a one-time “civil standby” in which a police officer will accompany you to the property and keep the peace while you collect your times. While the police officer will remain neutral during the 10-to-15 minute process, he or she will step in if a dispute begins. Do you have questions about no contact orders or civil standbys? Speak to a local law enforcement officer, or contact a Washington domestic violence attorney today.
What Are The Consequences Of Being Convicted Of A Domestic Violence Crime In Washington State?
The consequences of being convicted of a domestic violence crime in Washington State depends heavily on the nature and seriousness of the crime. However, the consequences of being found guilty of domestic violence could include prison time, various monetary expenses such as court fees and fines, probation, a no-contact order, and the loss of child custody or visitation. You may also permanently lose your right to carry a firearm. If you are an immigrant, a domestic violence conviction may have special implications regarding your residency. If you have been accused of domestic violence or are a victim of domestic violence and need legal representation, contact a Seattle domestic violence attorney today.
What Should I Do If I Am Falsely Accused Of Domestic Violence?
There may be no greater betrayal than having a spouse or partner wrongly accuse you of domestic violence or domestic abuse – and it often leads overwhelming feelings of embarrassment, fear, anger, and hurt. However, while it can be easy to become paralyzed by your emotions, it is vital to act quickly and calmly to your charges. First and foremost, you should speak to a Washington State domestic violence attorney who can help you fight the charges and build your own case. Next, collect any evidence that you can and make a list of witnesses who may be able to shed light on your innocence. Finally, remember to stay calm and focused: while anger and bitterness are natural reactions to such horrible accusations, these feelings will only hinder your fight.
Are There Root Causes Of Domestic Violence?
Over the years, studies have indeed linked several outside factors to incidents of domestic abuse. For example, domestic violence is much more rampant in households that suffer from addiction issues and substance abuse issues – and in households in which abusers have their own history of being abused during childhood. In addition, domestic abuse has been linked to feelings of low self-worth, financial stress, and mental illness. However, although these issues can help us better understand the root causes of domestic violence, and assist abusers in seek help for their behaviors, they are absolutely no excuse for domestic abuse. No matter what the “reason” for physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, understand that violence in the home is wrong, illegal, and extremely harmful.
Will A Domestic Violence Protection Order Keep Me Safe?
While studies have shown that protection orders do help reduce violence overall, such an order, also called a restraining order, will not necessarily protect you front your abuser. While a protection order is in many cases an important legal step to take in a domestic abuse case or divorce case, it is, at the end of the day, simply a piece of paper that will not guarantee your safety. After obtaining a protection order, be sure to take further steps to ensure your physical safety: go somewhere safe where your abuser may not know how to find you, alert your friends, relatives, and employer to your situation, and take advantage of local domestic violence resources.