May 12, 2020 Press Releases

The Alliance For Gun Responsibility Condemns Refusal To Extend Domestic Violence Protections

Senate Republican Leader Schoesler refused to extend Inslee’s Proclamation 20-45, which protects victims of assault during COVID-19

SEATTLE, WA – The Alliance for Gun Responsibility issued the following statement in response to Senate Republican Leader Schoesler’s refusal to extend Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-45, which allows survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to file protection orders electronically and allows courts to legally notify respondents electronically.

“It is unfathomable that, in the midst of a global health crisis, Senate Republican Leader Schoesler is playing politics with the health and safety of victims of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, and sexual violence,” said Renée Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “This is not a partisan issue. Across the state, the risk of abuse is heightened as people stay home to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Refusing to extend the commonsense protections included in Proclamation 20-45 puts victims and law enforcement at unnecessary risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Allowing for electronic filing of protection orders and remote hearings will ensure that these vital orders are served in a way that keeps everyone involved safe. We urge Sen. Schoesler to reconsider his indefensible position and stand with law enforcement and survivors.”

Across the country, including here in Washington state, 911 calls for domestic violence-related cases have increased. In the last two weeks, just in King County, there have been three domestic-violence homicides, an attempted domestic-violence murder, and two officer-involved shootings because of domestic violence. The issue has not been confined to King County. This weekend, in Snohomish County, deputies fought with a man subject to a domestic violence protection order. The same day, a Kittitas County man was arrested for assaulting a child and holding his family against their will. Last week, a domestic violence related murder-suicide was reported in Clark County. 

“For too many Washingtonians, home is not a safe place,” said Miriam Barnett, CEO of YWCA Pierce County. “Communities across the state are seeing 911 calls for domestic violence-related cases increase as calls to domestic violence hotlines decrease. This troubling trend highlights the urgent need for a responsive protective order system as we confront the coronavirus. It is crucial that we adapt our systems to ensure that our most vulnerable families can access protection when they need it most without putting themselves, advocates, or law enforcement at unnecessary risk. It is extremely discouraging and unacceptable that our elected leaders are turning these commonsense changes into a political football.”

“We know that this is an incredibly dangerous time for victims of domestic violence as families in our community are facing stresses that have been compounded during a health emergency that further isolates them from their usual support systems,” said Regina Malveaux, CEO of YWCA Spokane County. “Spokane has the highest rate of domestic violence in Washington state and stay at home orders threaten to drive an increase in abuse while making it harder for survivors to get help. Just as we have adapted to the times by offering a texting helpline, our protective order system must adapt to provide these crucial orders without endangering the health of victims or law enforcement. Lives depend on it.” 

“Sexual assault protection orders are often the only protection a victim has,” said Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “It is unconscionable, in this time of crisis, to make these orders more difficult to get.” 

The protective order system does not need to come at the expense of the health and safety of survivors or law enforcement. Working on the front lines every day, law enforcement officers are already exposed to health risks. Our state should embrace every opportunity to limit law enforcement’s exposure to contracting and risk of spreading COVID-19. Allowing for electronic service of protection orders and remote hearings reduces risks for law enforcement without compromising the quality of service.  

The changes included in Proclamation 20-45 enjoy near unanimous support from judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, and police from across the state who all agree that electronic service saves lives. From a letter to legislative leaders by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs:

“Not only does this proclamation help victims of crime, it also serves as a protection for the safety of our law enforcement by allowing electronic service of orders. Without the extension of Proclamation 20-45, law enforcement agencies are left with two unreasonable options, given the current public health crisis: Resume performing in-person service of protection orders and put law enforcement officers, and the respondents, at unnecessary risk; or refuse to serve protection orders, subjecting the law enforcement agency to additional liability, and denying the petitioner the protection offered them by the law.”