Domestic violence is a crime. In some cities—including Lakewood and Puyallup—committing domestic violence in the presence of a minor child is a separate, additional crime.
On October 2nd, in association with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the City of Lakewood recognized the City of Puyallup City Council for enacting this law in June in the interest of protecting children from the substantial adverse impacts that can result from witnessing domestic violence. The City of Lakewood had earlier adopted this law in April of 2017.
With these actions, both cities acknowledge that exposure to physical and emotional violence harms a child’s psychological well-being. Repeated exposure to domestic violence in childhood can result in health and behavior problems and emotional difficulties, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“This kind of crime is different from a vehicle break-in or theft because the victim and the assailant are raising children together, and will continue to do so,” said Puyallup City Councilmember Tom Swanson. “There are oftentimes long patterns of abuse and control present which make it a unique relationship between victim and perpetrator that isn’t experienced in other crimes. This new law is another tool we can use to help ensure that affected families receive needed services such as counseling.”
Puyallup City Councilmember Julie Door concurred. “These kinds of issues are lifelong, and their effects follow children into adulthood,” Door said. “A child who witnesses domestic violence can later experience drug addiction or even homelessness as a result. This law is a proactive step to try to break that destructive cycle by giving affected families the time they need to get help and understand that they don’t have to tolerate domestic violence.”
Puyallup Municipal Code now states that exposing a child to domestic violence is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a minimum mandatory jail time of 30 days.