Monday, March 22, 2010

Domestic Violence - A Modern Plague

The Federal Way News ran two articles about murder and mania in our fair city, both cases showing graphically how difficult it is to control domestic violence, even of the most brutal and open kind.

In this blog post, we'll look at these two cases, identify the legal options currently available for victims, and then discuss two bills currently under deliberation at the state legislature.

Case #1: Rodney Hill and a female friend had been harassed by Matthew Bolar, including death threats. Hill's friend was a former girlfriend of Bolar. Bolar had a criminal record for drugs, robbery, bail jumping, and violation of a no-contact order. He had also assaulted the ex-girlfriend at gunpoint three times within the last month.

Hill and his friend had moved in with a Federal Way homeowner for safety. The friend had gotten a court order prohibiting Bolar from making contact with her (an Order for Protection). Violation of this order would allow police to arrest Bolar.

Unfortunately, Bolar somehow learned about the location of his ex-girlfriend, bullied his way into the house with a male friend, and found the girlfriend and Hill hiding in a room in the house. While his male friend held Hill down, Bolar shot Hill at point blank range. He then tried to shoot the ex-girlfriend, but the gun jammed. Bolar fled the scene with his male companion.

Case #2: In the second case, Reed Huska went to his girlfriend's apartment and got into an argument with another man, who was babysitting the girlfriend's female roommate's child. The argument escalated, and the other man fatally stabbed Huska with a steak knife.

The first case involved an attack by a known abuser on a known victim, after prior involvement by the courts and police. The second case was an abrupt and apparently unforeseeable stabbing. In both cases the law seemed powerless to prevent tragedy.

Makes you wonder, "What can be done?" Or even, "Can anything be done?" Will we ever find a cure for the plague of domestic violence?

Here are the types of court orders currently available for victims:

An antiharassment order is a civil proceeding filed by the victim asking for court assistance after being seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed by conduct which serves no lawful purpose. It lasts 14 days, but can be extended to one year. It can be used to prevent harassment which occurs outside of the victim's household.

A restraining order can be obtained if the abuser is married to, or has a child with, the victim. It can be obtained in the course of a divorce, legal separation, custody suit, or paternity case.

A no-contact order can be obtained in any criminal matter involving domestic violence. The violence must be reported to the police, and a county prosecutor can obtain the order.

An order for protection can be gotten by anyone who has been the victim of domestic violence, and who may in the future be abused by a family or household member.

The Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-562-6025) provides statewide information and assistance, including referrals to other agencies.

We all have an obligation to do something. Domestic violence is killing us.