If you are the victim of domestic violence, a good, experienced lawyer may be part of the solution. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency in the South Puget Sound region, call the Thurston/Mason County Crisis Clinic at 360.586.2800. If you are in need of Emergency Housing or other assistance related to domestic violence, call Safeplace (female victims only) at 360.754.6300.
There is no excuse for domestic violence. From the inside of a violent relationship, it is sometimes difficult to see your way out. By its nature, the abusive relationship may have you in a state of emotional isolation, financial dependence, and fear of physical harm. Psychological abuse may have you feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless. You may even be blaming yourself for the abuse and fearful that if you leave, your children will suffer. It can be hard to leave, not only beause of the fear but also because the domestic violence cycle includes phases of the relationship that give you hope that things will change.
If you are in an abusive relationship, a lawyer experienced in handling domestic violence cases may be able to help you identify alternatives to staying in this dangerous cycle. Washington State's domestic violence prevention law permits a domestic violence victim to petition for and receive an immediate order of protection that prohibits the abuser from having contact with the victim, whether or not there has been an arrest or any police involvement at all. That order very often also restricts contact between the abuser and minors in the victim's household. If the victim and abuser are residing in the same household, the court may and often does order that the abuser be immediately removed from the home and prohibited from returning there until a full hearing on the petition can be held (within two weeks of the initial order). The process is designed so that a victim can prepare the paperwork and obtain the order without the aid of an attorney, and courts in Washington are generally staffed with a facilitator to assist victims through the preparation of paperwork (though they are not permitted to give legal advice). The forms are available at any Superior Court, and can be downloaded, long with instructions and foreign language translations here.
Victims of domestic violence frequently keep their abuse a secret from even close friends and family members. And because domestic violence victims are often isolated from friends and family by the abuser, the signs of the abusive relationship are often subtle and hard to recognize. If you suspect someone you care about is involved in an abusive relationship, educate yourself about the resources available in the community and share your concern and the reasons for your concern with your loved one. Let them know that they can count on you for support when they are ready for it. Do not be surprised if your loved one does not respond right away to your offer of help. Remember that the abuser has been manipulative and controlling and probably has the victim feeling fearful, ashamed, and depressed. But your offer of support may be just what the victim needs to begin the process of escaping from the abuse.
Although the process of obtaining a domestic violence protection order can and often is managed by the victim without the assistance of an attorney, it can be an intimidating and confusing process, particularly if the other party is likely to be represented by an attorney. Especially if issues related to custody and visitation of children are involved, the victim is wise to seek the advice of an attorney.
The Morgan Hill Law Firm will often waive normal fees for confidential office or telephone consultations for domestic violence victims who are not able to afford the fees. Contact Us to request an appointment.