Domestic violence is defined in part by RCW 26.50.20 as “Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members.” Also included in qualifying behaviors are sexual assault and stalking. A necessary element is the domestic relationship between victim and offender which is defined generally speaking as family members related by blood or marriage, people 16 years of age or older who have shared a romantic relationship, adults who have lived in the same domicile, and siblings of a common parent.

Emotional Abuse

Specific types of emotional abuse qualify as domestic violence while others will not. The spirit of domestic violence laws recognizes and responds to the ongoing nature of the crime along with the dependence victims often have with respect to the offender, which can be emotional, financial, or otherwise. It further recognizes the power perpetrators exercise over their victims by nature of the domestic setting. Emotional well-being of victims is used as a tool and becomes subject to harm by common domestic abuse patterns. The law is therefore crafted to unshackle the victim from dependence on offenders and bring about an end of the cycle of abuse, in part, by providing required periods of separation, protection, and support for the victims subsequent to arrest.

Infliction of Fear

Unlike what the title of the crime implies, actual physical violence need not occur for the crime to be committed. The phrase “infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault” allows courts to recognize abuse of a non-physical nature, which can frequently be more difficult to identify through investigation. Offenders impart fear upon victims and use it as a means of control. While some offenders readily use physical harm as a tool to oppress victims, others employ the mere threat of physical harm. One common pattern is for an offender to, at least once, demonstrate the willingness to impart actual physical harm, and then leverage that memory in the mind of the victim by employing threats of violence instead of subsequent inflictions of actual physical harm. By placing the victim in fear of receiving imminent harm, the offender is able to supplant the free will of the victim with his own.

The statute recognizes acts that place the victim in reasonable fear of immediate harm as elements of the offense. Behaviors such as issuing explicit threats, assuming body language of a threatening nature (such as raising a hand as if to strike,) and screaming at close proximity can qualify. Other forms of abuse, such as insults regarding body or mind, though harmful, do not qualify as domestic violence according to Washington statutes

Contact Us for Help Today

If you or a loved one is suffering from involvement in domestic violence, whether victim or accused, we invite you to reach out to us for professional assistance. Contact or call The Nahajski Firm at 206-621-0500 for a free and confidential consultation.