OLYMPIA – Legislation to add “coercive control” to the definition of domestic violence passed the Washington State House of Representatives yesterday. House Bill 1901, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) passed with a bipartisan vote of 70-26. The bill further reforms Washington’s protection order system, which was thoroughly revamped last year with the passage of House Bill 1320, also sponsored by Goodman. HB 1320 made permanent the practices established during the pandemic to allow for survivors to file petitions online, electronic service of protection orders, and video or telephone hearings.
“Any major reform inevitably needs refinement and clarification, so this bill includes several practical changes to make the protection order process even more workable, but we are also responding to the concerns from survivors, judges, and prosecutors about inadequate protection from coercive control,” said Goodman. “I strongly believe that we should include coercive control in the law to give all survivors the tools and knowledge they need to protect themselves.”
Coercive control is an abuser’s pattern of behavior that causes a victim to suffer physical, emotional, or psychological harm and is used by the abuser to control the victim. Examples of coercive control include intimidation or threats of harm against the victim, children, family members, or pets; destroying or threatening to damage property; abusing technology through cyberstalking, surveillance, distributing intimate images and commandeering social media accounts; brandishing firearms to intimidate; financial exploitation; abusive litigation; and several other forms of harassment. Research shows that coercive control is a widespread form of domestic violence that too often goes unrecognized.
“It’s time for our culture and laws to catch up with the research,” said Goodman. “Domestic abuse is not just physical, but also emotional and psychological. With this important change in the law, survivors will have greater protection from abusers whose pattern of coercive control can cause even more trauma than physical harm. It is well past time that our laws accounts for this completely unacceptable and dangerous behavior.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.