OPINION: It’s time to bring hope to those hurt by domestic violence
Special to the Tri-City Herald
Domestic violence is not a common topic of conversation around the kitchen table. However, information and knowledge are power. I believe it is time to shed some light on this troublesome subject, and hopefully by doing so, we can bring some hope to survivors and others affected by domestic violence.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people in the U.S. are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute. That abuse can turn deadly. It is time to do something to change these statistics.
Here in Washington state, domestic violence is a serious and pervasive issue facing so many of our families and communities. One tragic example is the murder of Tina Stewart. On Nov. 24, 2017, Tina was brutally murdered at the hands of her abusive boyfriend. Her family continues to keep Tina's story alive, and to find ways to help protect people like Tina who fall victim to abusive relationships.
Sadly, her story is not the only example. While many can identify signs of the physical harm, what most do not see are the destructive emotional, unseen wounds caused by domestic violence. I have heard too many stories from otherwise silent victims. How their excruciating experiences led to thoughts of suicide. How they did not necessarily want to end their life, but rather they had lost hope that things could be different or get better.
To anyone reading this that may feel trapped or hopeless – there is hope, and a chance for a better life for every precious one of you!
Your voice shall not be silenced, and nor will the families' of those who have lost loved ones to abuse.
Tina's story, and stories like hers, are the inspiration behind Tina's bill.
Washington state data shows a high rate of re-offenses among perpetrators of domestic violence. Unfortunately, domestic violence is a crime that rarely stops at the first offense. There is currently no simple way of knowing whether any particular person has a history of violent abuse in the absence of a criminal background check or court records request. It is time to create a tool where people can protect themselves from those with a violent history.
House Bill 1080, also known as Tina's bill, would create a public registry of individuals with a violent domestic violence history. Unlike a sex offender registry, Tina's bill is not punitive. It is simply informative. It will list anyone convicted of one felony, or multiple misdemeanor serious domestic violence charges. The Washington State Patrol would manage this searchable, public registry. It is time to put the power of protection into the people's hands.
As a career law enforcement officer with over 25 years of experience, I have seen both perspectives – those victims that do not want to report or press charges against their abuser, and those who wish they'd known their abuser had a history of violence before they'd entered into an intimate relationship. I cannot change the minds of those who chose to keep the privacy of their situation to themselves, but I can create change for those who want to take extra precautions before entering into a new relationship.
The whole purpose behind House Bill 1080 is to protect people from domestic violence. It is about giving hope. It is about acknowledging how serious a problem domestic violence has become in our communities, our state, and across the nation.
Had a registry like this been available for Tina, she may still be with us today.
Every situation of domestic violence is unique, and Tina's bill is an important prevention tool to keep potential victims safe and informed.
If you have comments about this, or any other Washington state legislation, feel free to contact your state representatives by calling (800) 562-6000.