Domestic Violence on the Rise
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) is marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month by sharing an update on our domestic violence (DV) and victim services work, as well as how the public can get help.
WATCH: King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office staff and Doris O’Neal, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish’s Director of Gender-Based Violence Specialized Services, share DV data, updates and resources to help the public prevent and intervene in DV situations.
Since the start of the pandemic, DV has increased in King County. KCPAO and our community partners are addressing the rise in DV by expanding services for survivors, making more online tools available to the public, and investing in victim services.
“Domestic violence is an underreported crime, which makes the numbers we are sharing today all the more concerning,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney. “As Domestic Violence month gets underway, we want the public to know that there are more tools available than ever – including online – to help protect survivors.”
“Domestic violence is a bellwether for violent crime and violent death in our community,” said David Martin, Chair of the Domestic Violence Unit in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “The trauma of DV creates life altering impacts on victims and their children. We must do more to prevent DV from escalating by investing in youth, making treatment available and effective, and reducing access to firearms.”
“With the recent rise of domestic violence, critical services that are accessible are more important than ever to survivors,” said Colleen McIngalls, Director of Victim Services at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “We also know that our BlPOC survivors are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence, and encounter increased barriers accessing necessary services to reduce risk, and increase safety. Innovative programs like Survivors First have demonstrated our commitment to address disproportionality faced by domestic violence survivors.”
“COVID-19 has exacerbated the barriers that prevent domestic violence survivors from accessing help,” said Doris O’Neal, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish’s Director of Gender-Based Violence Specialized Services. “In ending gender-based violence, it is critical to center the needs of Black and African American survivors, especially survivor-defendants, who are often furthest from opportunity.”
“Survivors FIRST, our innovative partnership with the YWCA, seeks to identify survivors who enter the criminal justice system as defendants and connect them to meaningful advocacy and community services without bringing criminal charges,” said Caroline Djamalov, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “Our partnership is disrupting the abuse-to-prison pipeline and reducing racial disproportionality, putting the most vulnerable and marginalized survivors first.”
This month, our office is also hosting the annual Domestic Violence Symposium, which promotes innovative thinking for prosecution, law enforcement, civil and family law attorneys, advocates, judges, law students, social workers and child welfare professionals, corrections, mental health/healthcare professionals and others responding to survivors of gender-based/domestic violence.
In 2019, there were four domestic violence homicides in King County. That year also had three domestic violence suicides and one officer-involved shooting at a domestic violence incident.
In 2020, King County saw 18 domestic violence homicides – the highest number since 2007. There also were five domestic violence suicides that year and five officer-involved shootings at domestic violence incidents.
In 2021, the rate of DV homicide and violent death is on pace to meet or exceed 2020. There have been 15 domestic violence homicides cases from recent events (we also filed two additional murder cases: one involving a mother accused of killing her newborn boy in November 1997, and another with a defendant accused of killing two teenage girls in a 2018 Burien case).
Of those 15 cases:
- Six were intimate partners
- Nine were familial
- Overall, there are 24 violent deaths attributed to DV. 3 suicides during two attempted murders and one murder-suicide. 2 officer involved shootings. And 4 directly related deaths: two killed while a defendant was in flight from a DV homicide and two others while attempting to intervene in DV.
- 12 of the 24 involved a firearm.
There also was one more case that was not charged: a murder-suicide of a parent who killed her child.
- The surge of felony DV cases from 2020 has receded. Felony referrals and filings have returned to pre-pandemic rates.
- Victim Advocacy
- Our Protection Order Advocates have responded to 6,734 service inquiries and crisis triage calls so far in 2021.
- We have supported 1780 intimate partner violence victims so far in 2021.
- In July, all protection order hearings transition from phone to zoom.
- Learn more about our Domestic Violence Advocates
- Between January 1, 2021 and October 1, 2021 the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit (RDVFEU) recovered 431 firearms, and reviewed 1186 civil protection orders with Orders to Surrender and Prohibit Weapons to determine whether there were any allegations of firearms.
- Of those, 50% (593 cases) were assessed as “firearm positive” necessitating further unit action. Unit advocates do outreach to petitioners on all firearm positive cases and were successfully able to connect and conduct a formal Firearm Interview with 565 of those petitioners, or 95%.
- This high percentage of engagement demonstrates that petitioners care deeply about mitigating the risk of firearms while their protection orders are in place. Further, Unit Prosecutors submitted information to the court about the restrained parties access to firearms, compliance with the Order to Surrender and Prohibit Weapons and appeared on the Weapons Compliance calendar on 1294 cases in this same time period.
- Unit prosecutors also assisted on 52 Extreme Risk Protection Orders, intervening to remove firearms BEFORE a firearm tragedy can occur. The operations of the RDVFEU are critically important to mitigating firearm risk and promoting a culture of compliance in our community.
KCPAO & Partner Highlights
- Project Safety
- Project Safety provides pro bono civil legal assistance to crime victims to help resolve civil legal issues that arise as a result of victimization. With this legal assistance, which ranges from brief legal advice to full representation in court, we hope to help victims stabilize their lives and prevent further victimization.
- This year, our advocates have made over 230 Project Safety referrals as of September 1, 2021.
- We have added an additional Victims of Crime Act-funded attorney at the King County Bar Association to provide direct representation and legal services for crime victims.
- During calendar year 2020, Project Safety opened 435 cases involving 1163 victims and their families. Of those, 78% or 909 victims and their children (267 of 435 cases) involved victims of color and their families.
- Project Safety is the most equitable program funded by OCLA. While most of the civil legal work has centered in the Domestic Violence Protection Orders and related family law areas, victims have also received civil legal assistance on problems in a wide range of other substantive areas, including immigration, housing and landlord/tenant, consumer, and bankruptcy. The success of Project Safety led to a Washington State Bar Association APEX award for innovation, and a partnership with Harvard’s Access to Justice Institute to conduct an evaluation of the efficacy of the project.
- Survivors FIRST
- Survivors FIRST (Facilitating Interventions and Resources for Survivors of Trauma) is a partnership between the YWCA of Seattle King County and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) that identifies justice-involved survivors of gender based violence and connects them to culturally specific services at the YWCA Seattle King County.
- By providing survivors of color culturally appropriate domestic violence and intimate partner violence services, Survivors FIRST aims to help reduce the racial disproportionality of survivors of gender-based violence in the criminal legal system.
- SB 5183
- Earlier this year, our Domestic Violence Unit advocated for a new bill – championed by Senators T'wina Nobles and Manka Dhingra – which makes Washington the first state in the nation to provide forensic nurse examiners to victims of domestic violence strangulation.
- A person who suffers from nonfatal strangulation is 750 percent more likely to become a homicide victim and these crimes can be hard to prosecute as they mostly happen behind closed doors. In 2018, in King County alone there were 323 known cases of strangulation, 64 of which were treated in the hospital and only 4 received a forensic exam because it also involved a sexual assault. This bill makes forensic exams available across the state, which will help collect the evidence that is needed to more fully prosecute domestic violence cases that involve strangulations
- Partnership with UIHI
- Earlier this year, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) released a first-of-its-kind data dashboard that provides public access to data regarding the types of crimes referred to KCPAO and the cases filed. KCPAO partnered with a number community groups, criminal justice system partners, and academic experts to gain an understanding of their needs and concerns, which informed data collection methods and the development of the dashboard.
- By partnering with Urban Indian Health Institute, our aim is to advance equity and social justice principles by improving data collection and analysis for American Indians and Alaska Natives. This partnership is one we are most proud of, and is one step KCPAO is taking towards building a community network through collaboration and guidance from Native voices and scientists. We are constantly working to develop innovative new tactics and tools to address domestic violence against indigenous peoples in King County and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis.
- Earlier Victim Outreach
- We have increased advocacy services to our pre-filing advocacy, by calling on our non-rush filings. By having victim information before making filing decisions our office can make more informed decisions around which cases should be filed. Advocates are also connecting victims more directly to community services.
How to Get Help
- If you know someone who needs a protection order, those can now be filed remotely in King County. Additional information is available here: http://protectionorder.org/ The remote protection order program was launched by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office last year at the start of the pandemic.
- Learn how to recognize signs of abuse: Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Friends and Family Guide
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (available 24/7): 1-800-799-7233
About YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish:
YWCA is the region’s oldest and largest organization focused on the needs of women, and provides services and advocacy to support stable homes and economic advancement, reduce violence and improve health, and promote racial equity and social justice. With programs that serve more than 7,000 people each year, YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. To learn more, please visit our website: ywcaworks.org.