Washington State House Democrats


Children victims’ remote testimony awareness bill introduced in the House

This morning a bill aimed at increasing awareness of existing law that allows for children victims to testify remotely was introduced by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo).

Research has found that when children are called to testify in court proceedings, the trauma resulting from exposure to an open courtroom, or confrontation with a defendant, can lead to emotional distress and inaccurate testimony.

“As a mental health counselor, I have sat with children as they are forced to testify in front of their offenders. We owe it to our children to help them heal from such horrific crimes as soon as possible, this includes helping to restore a sense of safety,” said Ortiz-Self. “Making them face their offenders results in accomplishing the opposite. We must do better for our children.”

To protect child victims of sexual abuse from the additional emotional trauma associated with giving testimony, many states across the nation, including Washington, have passed laws to allow children victims to testify by alternative methods.

 Nieto, LiliaThe option of remote testimony has been available in Washington since 1990. According to RCW 9A.44.150, the court may, under specific circumstances, order that a child under the age of fourteen testify in a separate room, while one-way closed-circuit television equipment simultaneously projects the child’s testimony into the courtroom.

However, in a recent survey of the courts, of those who responded, none reported using remote testimony for children victims of sexual crimes within the last ten years.

Ortiz-Self’s measure, HB 1898, would impact the use of remote testimony for children victims of sexual abuse by:

  • Notifying child victims of their right to request remote testimony.
  • Requiring the Criminal Training Commission to include, in its annual training, the right of child victims to request remote testimony.

“Our children do not deserve to be re-victimized by the system that is supposed to protect them,” added Ortiz-Self.