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What is considered Domestic Violence under Washington State Law

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Recently updated on May 8th, 2024 at 12:33 am

Washington State Law goes to great lengths to cover the various forms of domestic violence. In Washington State law (Revised Code of Washington, RCW, 7.105.010), a person named Alex is suffering from domestic violence from Sam if:

  1. They have a qualifying relationship, and
  2. If Sam harmed Alex in a way listed in the definition 

Qualifying relationships include 

  1. ALL romantic relationships such as current or ex-husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, registered domestic partners, co-parents or a dating couple. 
  2. Family and household members, including via marriage or adoption meet the definition.

The harms listed in the definition are 

  1. Physically hurting someone
  2. Having any kind of nonconsensual sexual contact. 
  3. Mere threats qualify as domestic violence. For example, if Sam threatens Alex and makes them fearful by flashing a gun, verbal attacks, or gesturing to strangle them, then that is domestic violence. The threatening behavior can be subtle for example if Sam is driving recklessly with Alex or Alex's loved ones in the car to make a point. 
  4. Coercive control is also considered domestic violence which could be big or small actions to control Alex. For example, if Sam is locking up Alex, limiting Alex's access to a car, or restricting Alex from being out in the public, then that is coercive control. Taking away Alex's driver's license, credit or debit cards or other basics would also be examples of coercive control. But also if Sam using subtle actions isolates Alex from her family or friends or loved ones then that would also be domestic violence. Similarly isolating Alex from jobs or volunteering opportunities or hobbies could be considered controlling behavior. Yet even a more subtle way could be Sam blackmailing Alex to hurt Alex by limiting something like health insurance, a job opportunity, or schooling, or by revealing Alex's secrets such as the US immigration status, or some disease or medical condition that Alex doesn't want to share medical info or even Alex's sexual orientation. Sam could also blackmail Alex by threatening self-harm or even suicide, and that would be domestic violence. 
  5. If Sam harasses Alex by even a single act of physical violence or some repeated actions which seriously distress Alex, then that would be domestic violence.
  6. Stalking Alex e.g. following her in any way would be domestic violence. Similarly, now online stalking and surveillance could also be considered domestic. 
  7. Finally bullying or impersonating Alex online would also be domestic violence. 
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