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Valley works to protect domestic violence victims
SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - They say domestic violence in the Valley is no worse than anywhere else, but then again, no one really knows.
Of the more than 9,000 calls the Eastside Domestic Violence Program (EDVP) received during 2004 on its crisis line, 436 came from the Valley. But according to Linda Olsen, executive director of EDVP, only 2 percent of domestic violence victims ever call a service agency.
"I think there exists more violence in our service area than we ever find out about," Olsen said. "Of course, there's no way of truly knowing, but we feel the prevalence is roughly one in three [victims who call]."
Yet, even those who do report abuse are not necessarily safe. A domestic dispute between Happy Sushi and Teriyaki owners Annie and David Chung last October resulted in the death of the couple, after David's release from the Issaquah jail. Local officers in Bellevue where the couple lived were notified of his release, but those in North Bend where his restaurant was located were not. After a 15-minute taxi ride following David Chung's release, he stabbed his wife and himself at their North Bend restaurant.
Olsen said it's hard to tell how far an abuser will go, even one who has only inflicted verbal or emotional damage and doesn't have a history of violence like David Chung didn't have. Therefore, a community can never be too careful about protecting victims from abusers.
"It's not unusual to go from emotional or verbal abuse all the way up to homicide without any physical abuse in between," Olsen said. "We take [verbal abuse] very seriously."
According to the 2004 Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review conducted by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about one-third of women who are murdered in Washington are killed by their current or former intimate partners. From January 1997 through June 2004, at least 281 people were killed by domestic violence abusers in the state.
"It's very difficult to know [which cases are the most violent] because the most dangerous time is when someone leaves," Olsen said. "Physical abuse prior to leaving may not even be an indicator of how dangerous the person could be. It could go to stalking and homicide."
Where to go
Finding a safe place from which to make a call, whether to the House of Hope in North Bend or EDVP based in Bellevue, is a good place to start for victims who want to get out of a dangerous situation.
The House of Hope shelters women and children in crisis situations. The house, in an undisclosed location, serves up to 10 families at a time and receives about 200-300 calls per month from women seeking help.
"Domestic violence has always been around, but I think that the awareness of domestic violence has certainly increased in the past 10 years, services have as well. Unfortunately there's still not enough services to match the need," said Kimberly Jackson, director of House of Hope.
Olsen said that first call is the most important because the caller gets suggestions of where to go to be safe.
"Sometimes it takes months, even years before someone can make the move to leave," she said.
But the sooner the better. The EDVP serves all of east and north King County. The agency's 24-hour crisis line offers ongoing support to victims, not just immediate help in a crisis situation. EDVP also provides legal advocacy; support groups for kids that include education on healthy relationships; and community advocacy.
EDVP offers emergency shelter services in various apartments scattered across the Eastside. Olsen said apartments give families greater privacy than group homes. Families can stay for three months and sometimes longer. Olsen said it can take a long time for victims to work through all the legal matters, attend to their children's emotional needs, work on employment skills and opportunities and other issues they may need to complete at a safe distance from their offenders.
EDVP turns away 10 victims for every one it can house, but won't turn away someone with no place to go.
Kim Stonebraker, a Snoqualmie police officer, handles most of the domestic violence calls in the city. Even though statistically the highest risk of death for an officer is when responding to a domestic violence call, Stonebraker isn't frightened.
"I love them because I like to make sure the victim is safe and I love to put the perpetrator away," Stonebraker said.
Stonebraker said the station receives a lot more domestic violence calls now that more and more people are moving into the city.
Unfortunately, how well a victim is protected can come down to how much one individual officer cares.
"There's no mandatory system. It's up to the officer if they choose to [keep in contact with the victim], but most of us generally have to keep a close eye on that, especially if we know we have a real violent offender. Victims need to be advised of their rights," Stonebraker said. "They need support the whole way through because it's so confusing and overwhelming. Unless someone walks them through it, they may not realize the danger they are in."
Police who make domestic violence arrests don't determine how or when the offender is released. After being booked into jail, offenders usually stay until their arraignment. From there a judge decides how long they will be confined. Police can request in the paperwork filled out at the time of the arrest that the offender be put on a hold or released later than usual. The state says that domestic violence offenders cannot post bail, but that isn't always guaranteed. Different jails have different policies and some do release domestic violence offenders on bail.
Usually, individual jails also decide on how or if they will contact local authorities once abusers are released.
Those arrested in North Bend and Snoqualmie for domestic violence offenses are held in the Issaquah jail until they can get an arraignment. The Issaquah jail always calls to inform the victim of an offender's release if provided with their contact information by the officer who made the initial arrest.
Roger Enders, jail manager at the Issaquah jail, said before domestic violence offenders are released, the victim or victim's family is always notified.
"If we can't get a hold of them we leave a message or call other phone numbers. We pretty much exhaust all resources," Enders said.
In the case of David Chung, local authorities in Bellevue--his home--were notified of his release, as was his family, but police in North Bend where his business was located were not notified.
If an abuser makes bail, the local law enforcement from his area will be notified.
According to state law, jails cannot allow domestic violence offenders to post bail and be released immediately following an arrest. However, individual jurisdictions can decide if they want to follow the law. Snoqualmie and North Bend do observe the law, forcing the offender to go before a judge following an arrest, which usually involves one night in jail. After arraignment the judge can decide to hold the offender in jail, release him or her, or allow for bail.
Child custody battles
Women who file complaints with police during domestic violence incidents have a better chance of winning custody of their children later on, Olsen said.
The police record that is generated from those calls serves as evidence in court that the other party is abusive and that the victim is not making things up, as they are often accused of in custody battles following a divorce due to domestic violence.
"Unfortunately they [the children] do a whole lot of the time go with the abuser," Olsen said. "Battered women don't always present well in court and generally the abuser uses a number of tactics, such as money to get an attorney who will say the abuser has mental problems and isn't fit for parenting. Unless there is a record of domestic violence, and often there isn't because of fear to call the police, the abuser can get custody or shared custody."