Getting tough on domestic violence

Last year, I tackled child abuse penalties in our state after constituents contacted me about someone horribly abusing their young son. Eryk’s parents and I were able to make the governor and Legislature aware of an oversight when it came to the supervision of young children, as well as the limited sentences that abusers must serve.

This year, with the leadership of Attorney General Rob McKenna, I am proud to support legislation that strengthens our sentencing of domestic violence crimes. As a Seattle police officer, I know the patterns that criminals fall into and that victims are often abused by the same person over and over. I have seen many of these criminals return to the same situation, with the same abusive outcome. They have no respect for their victims or for the law. And they know that the best law enforcement can do is to give them minimal jail time, allowing them to return and continue their rage on helpless victims.

The legislation we are proposing would provide enhanced penalties for these repeated and serial abusers. First, a serial abuser would accrue points for misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, leading up to a felony charge, with its heavier consequences. This would allow prior convictions to be held more heavily against an offender who clearly has developed a habit of abuse.

Second, it would allow courts to “multiply,” or count more heavily against, someone’s previous record of felony domestic violence convictions. Many refer to repeated domestic abuse as the “cycle of violence.” Without longer sentences for abusers, victims are robbed of the time and opportunity to start fresh and regain their sense of safety. When victims know their abusers will be locked up for a long time, they can move on with their lives and begin to deal with their pain. Society recognizes the ugliness of domestic violence; it is time the courts reflect that reality.

It is the state’s duty to protect its citizens from violence and to hold responsible those who commit this violence. By holding prior convictions more heavily against a repeated offender, this sends a message that we stand up victims, not for criminals. I hope you’ll join me in support Attorney General McKenna’s fight against domestic violence and standing up for victims and families.

Rep. Mike Hope (R-Lake Stevens) is a Seattle police officer when the Legislature is not in session.

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