When a victim of domestic violence is given a life-time protection order from their abuser it usually means they can begin to move on with their life – but a decision by the Washington Supreme Court changed that last year.
In the case, In Re Marriage of Freeman, the court reversed a life-long protection order based on the fact that Robert Freeman had moved out of the state and had not broken the order for over 10 years. However, Robin Freeman continued to fear her former husband. A bill brought before the House Judiciary committee today called on the Legislature to find that the Court’s decision established incorrect standards for ending long-term protection orders.
At the hearing today an advocate asked the committee to not just think about the trauma of coming back to court and having to face an abuser – after thinking they never had to worry about seeing them again – but also consider that the whole process puts them in danger all over again. “It is important that the burden [for the abuser] be high,” she said.
Next a victim of domestic violence spoke. Last year, she said, her abuser pointed a gun at her face and as she tried to crawl out the winder he told her “better the mess outside.” Now she is facing the possible amputation of her leg and can not use the right side of her body, she said. “I was told I had a permanent order of protection,” she said. “I can be safe.” Currently she is involved in the court case against her abuser. “Every time I get out of that car I am terrified of what is going to happen to me between the car and the court house,” she told the committee. She asked what would happen in five to ten years, if she has gotten over the night mare only to find out that he was able to get the protection order lifted? What purpose would lifting it serve, she asked. “In the end I would like to know that when he is convicted I can go one with my life.”
The proposal would put stricter guidelines in place for changing or canceling protection orders that were issued for a period greater than two years:
- First the respondent would have to write an affidavit saying why the order against them should be lifted. The victim could write their own opposing affidavit. After looking them over a court must dismiss the motion unless they see adequate cause for a hearing.
- The burden would fall on the abuser to convince the court that the victim would not be put in any danger. They would have to prove that they have taken substantial steps to prevent the recurrence of domestic violence.
- The court would not be allowed to consider several factors, including how much time has passed since the order was put in place, how inconvenient it is on them or if they have moved far away.
- The victim would not have to prove that he or she has any current fears of their former abuser.
If passed it would mean that once a court has found it necessary to issue a long-term protection order it would be much more difficult to remove it.