June 30, 2022

New Domestic Violence Law in Effect July 1st

Recently, the Washington State Legislature enacted a new chapter of the Revised Code of Washington regarding domestic violence.

The Revised Code of Washington chapter 7.105 brings new changes to the legal definition of domestic violence (DV) and simplifies the process for getting a DV protection order.

This New Expanded Legal Definition of DV Goes Into Effect July 1st

In order to address the many issues with previous DV statutes, the legislature simplified the process for obtaining a protection order. Part of this simplification involved expanding the legal definition of domestic violence to better reflect what domestic violence actually looks like in our modern day.

By expanding the definition to include coercive control and unlawful harassment, the legislature has recognized the power and control an abuser has over their victim and that power and control can still have extreme detrimental effects without physical harm.  

With this new law, the legislature also aims to address the impact of teen dating violence, which has been increasing in recent years. The need to prevent adolescent DV is important as it can often develop into more severe forms of abuse in adulthood. 

Along with expanding what is legally recognized as domestic violence, the legislature has changed and added definitions to clarify some terms that may not have been clearly defined before. 

What are some of these changes? 
  • Intimate partner has been expanded to include anyone in a dating relationship over the age of 13. Additionally the definition, which traditionally has found that anyone with a child in common is an intimate partner, was modified to exclude rapists from being considered a victim’s intimate partner in situations where a child was a product of that rape.   
  • Family/household member has been expanded to include children, intimate partners of parents, the intimate partners’ children, and legal guardians. 
  • Stalking still contains references to the criminal definition of stalking, but now has its own definition under the statute. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct involving repeated/continuing contact, attempted contact, monitoring, tracking, surveillance, or disrupting harassment of an individual.
What was added?

Multiple definitions were added, clarified, and unified under this update. While components of these definitions existed in case law or certain types of protection orders, these new definitions help increase the understanding of domestic violence.

  • Consent is defined as “words or conduct indicating freely given agreement” to sexual contact. Consent is not given when
    • It is revoked or not ongoing
    • It is not voluntary
    • The person does not have the capacity to consent due to disability, intoxication, or age
    • The other party has authority or control over the care or custody of a person incarcerated or detained
  • Sexual conduct is defined as any kind of sexual contact or forced displaying of someone’s genitals, anus, or breasts. 
  • Sexual penetration is defined as any contact or intrusion between the sex organ or anus of one person and the sex organ, mouth, hand, or anus of another person. This also includes contact/penetration by an object or animal at the hands of an abuser. Semen is not required to prove penetration occurred.

  • Power & Control Wheel

    Coercive control is a pattern of behavior designed to inflict physical, emotional, or psychological harm, preventing the survivor from living freely. Protective action taken to keep the survivor or their child safe in “good faith” is not considered coercive control.

    Coercive control includes… 

    • Intimidating, controlling, or threatening behavior (this includes cyber harassment) 
    • Causing dependence, confinement, or isolation of the other party 
    • Depriving the survivor of basic necessities or committing financial exploitation
    • Controlling or monitoring the survivors movement, communication, or daily behavior or that of their children
    • Dragging the survivor through abusive litigation to exhaust their resources
    • Subjecting the survivor to psychological aggression

To better understand the definition of coercive control, see the Power & Control Wheel

  • Unlawful harassment is defined as an intentional pattern of behavior aimed at a person to seriously annoy, alarm, and harass them. This can be a single act of violence or a threat of violence as well, especially if a weapon is present. 
  • Course of conduct is repeated behavior with the intent to alarm, annoy, or harass a person after the respondent (abuser) has been asked to stop. 

Domestic Violence Petitions & Protections

RCW 7.105 combines the six different civil protection orders available in Washington, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders, into one. Starting on December 30th, there will be a unified petition that survivors can file to seek protection orders for DV, sexual assault, anti-harassment, stalking, and vulnerable adults.

This new unified petition empowers the survivor to choose what type of order they would like if they qualify for multiple types, and removes barriers that come when a survivor does not know which form to file. The unified petition also addresses the need to clarify and simplify civil protection orders so they are more understandable and accessible to victims seeking relief.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) will remain separate due to the difference in nature of the order. These protection orders are designed to remove a person’s access to weapons when they pose a significant safety risk to themselves or others. This is the extent of the protection offered.

DV protection orders can be issued when domestic violence is proven by evidence, and cannot be denied due to…

  • A no contact order or restraining order having been issued previously
  • Criminal charges pending against respondent (perpetrator)
  • Perceived negative impact on the respondent
  • The petitioner (survivor) not reporting the domestic violence to law enforcement
  • The petitioner or respondent being a minor (under the age of 18)
  • The domestic violence having occurred in the past
  • The respondent moving to a new location

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is a simplification of RCW 7.105 and does not contain the full language of the statute nor all of the changes to civil protection orders that was brought about by the enactment of RCW 7.105. Similarly, this is an informational article and is not legal advice. If you are a victim of intimate partner domestic violence and are in need of legal advice, please visit ywcaspokane.org/programs/services for more information about the legal services available through YWCA Spokane.  For more specific information regarding RCW 7.105, please see the full statute

By: Rachel Dannen

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