In many instances, it can be difficult to get a conviction in a domestic violence case.
Sometimes victims, fearing further hardship, recant statements about domestic abuse.
When that happens, it often puts victims right back where they were before, said Puyallup City Attorney Joseph Beck.
“Every community struggles with domestic violence — it’s a difficult issue,” Beck said. “That’s why it’s really important that we come up with as many tools as possible to fight this issue.”
Every community struggles with domestic violence — it’s a difficult issue. That’s why it’s really important that we come up with has many tools as possible to fight this issue.
Joseph Beck, Puyallup city attorney
The Puyallup City Council passed the second reading of an ordinance adopting code section PMC 9A.02.065 at the June 27 council meeting, making it a crime to expose children to domestic violence.
“The City Council of the City of Puyallup recognizes that domestic violence incidents committed in the presence of minor children can result in not only risk to the children but lifelong adverse psychological and other adverse impacts on those children,” according to the ordinance.
Any person convicted of the crime will be imprisoned for no less than 30 days.
From the city’s perspective, the ordinance is two-fold, Beck said. Not only does it protect minors exposed to domestic violence, but it keeps families in a process of moving forward in the system, either through criminal justice or therapeutic help.
“The combination of those two will allow us the leverage we need to get a conviction in the case. That’s an extra benefit,” Beck said.
The combination of those two will allow us the leverage we need to get a conviction in the case. That’s an extra benefit.
“It’s another crime that can be charged outside the scope of the victim,” added Puyallup Councilman Tom Swanson.
The ordinance caught the interest of Swanson after Lakewood passed it a few months prior. He brought it to Puyallup’s agenda in an effort to reduce the impact of domestic violence incidents and to help victims and witnesses who are affected.
“It’s a very unique category of crime,” Swanson said.
Puyallup Police Chief Bryan Jeter said that in his department, domestic violence cases involving minors aren’t common, but they aren’t infrequent. The ordinance is another “tool in the tool chest” to protect children and prevent recurring cycles of domestic violence.
“This is an indication from the city that we take this seriously,” Beck said.
This is an indication from the city that we take this seriously.
The police department conducts interviews with victims and children to determine what the minors have witnessed or experienced, both emotionally or physically, Jeter said.
There is about a 10- to 15-day lag after the City Council approves the ordinance before it becomes effective.
“To me, domestic violence is the most important and egregious crime that we prosecute,” Beck said. “It has a huge impact on the children who observe it. This (ordinance) gives us a way to address that issue.”