March 2015 Bar Bulletin
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March 2015 Bar Bulletin

Helping Victims of Domestic Violence Obtain Protection Orders

By William D. Braun


First of Three Parts

Victims of domestic violence who have summoned the courage to go to court to seek a protection order are at a distinct disadvantage. First, most victims cannot afford a lawyer and are unfamiliar with and intimidated by the legal system. Second, the crippling effects of abuse and fear of their abusers hinder the ability of victims to communicate the facts to the court. Third, if the abuser is represented by counsel, the victim must contend with two adversaries simultaneously.

Accordingly, for a victim to function effectively on her own behalf is a difficult and daunting task. This is especially the case if the victim does not speak English.

The fear factor is critical. Many victims of domestic violence are overwhelmed and incapacitated by fear. Fear of escalating violence and retaliation is among the factors that explain why victims remain with their abusers. Fear prevents many victims from sharing the details of domestic violence incidents with others and keeps them from seeking help.1

The Problem

More than one in three women (35.6%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner and nearly one out of four women (24.3%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.2 Domestic violence is a widespread problem in Washington that can wreck the lives of its victims, does lasting harm to children, and has devastating and enduring effects on families. Domestic violence also has adverse impacts on communities and the "crisis is growing."3

The danger associated with domestic violence increases when the victim leaves her abuser.4 In at least 46 percent of domestic violence homicides, the victim had left, divorced or was in the process of separating from her abuser.5 Even if they survive, victims may be left severely injured.

A Typical Case

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