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Domestic violence victims and advocates press for family court system reform

(The Center Square) – Domestic violence victims and advocates held a news conference at the state Capitol in Olympia on Thursday, calling on majority party Democrats to schedule hearings on a package of bills aimed at improving protections for abuse victims – mostly women and children – via family court reforms.

Not all abuse is physical, observed Rep. Phil Fortunato, R-Federal Way, sponsor of the bills.

“I will call this a new class of abuse, as a lot of it is psychological abuse,” he said. “There’s no broken bones, there’s no black and blue marks, but the scars are very deep.”

Tina Swithin, author of “One Mom’s Battle,” spoke out during the press conference.

“Washington state is high on my radar as a state that is failing survivors of domestic abuse,” she said.

She went on to say, “Parental rights trump child safety, even when there are substantiated findings of abuse, and if the residents of Washington state understood how low the bar has been set when it comes to a parent obtaining custody of a child, I believe they would be locking arms with us in outrage.”

Dana Tingey, who endured abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, is now an advocate for domestic violence victims in preparation for court cases.

“I invite everyone to support SB 5879, which will protect children and save lives,” she said.

Senate Bill 5879, known as Kayden’s Law, would make Washington eligible for substantial federal funding to train judges, in addition to and restricting “reunification” treatments that critics contend could be used to force contact with abusive parents.

“I went to court 18 times with claims from my ex of parental alienation which is an unscientific thing people try and use as a defense to abuse,” Swithin said. “But he was already admitting to abusing, so for me this was a weird concept.”

Tingey shared that she is good friends with Susan Powell’s parents, whose son-in-law, Josh Powell, killed their two young sons in a house explosion after Susan went missing in December 2009.

“I found Kayden’s Law introduced in the Washington Legislature,” and then learned, “Washington state is one of the worst states when it comes to DV cases per-capita.”

She noted, “Kayden’s Law gives states money based on several points related to how bad domestic violence is in the state.”

Washington needs to join other states in passing similar legislation, Tingey said.

“Every state in the country can have this, California just passed it, Utah did today and it passed unanimously,” she said. “Other states are doing this, and we say that we are putting women and children first and we believe domestic violence survivors? Bullcrap.”

The Center Square reached out to Rep. Jamila Taylor, D-Federal Way, who has offered alternate legislation on domestic violence, but did not receive a response.

“For some reason our legislators want to do this a different way and they want to give judges more discretion,” Tingey said, citing a Fox News piece that “50% of the judges deciding these cases have five years or less experience on the bench.”

She said she hasn’t been able to get anyone in the majority to listen to her.

“To you who have been bought or have favors or worked on this bill [alternate legislation] and are married to it emotionally, stop!” Tingey said.

The Center Square also reached out to the office of Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to ask if SB 5879 would get a hearing, but did not get a reply.

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