In a groundbreaking move, the Washington Supreme Court in America has ruled that the children of domestic violence survivors can now receive protection orders against anyone who has abused their parents.

The judges’ decision was unanimous, and stemmed from the view that children exposed to domestic violence are deeply affected, even if they are not physically hurt. This is something we campaign on often, and there is a growing body of research which supports this school of thought.

In the judgment Justice Steven Gonzalez notes the effects of exposure to domestic violence on children:

“The harm caused by domestic violence can be physical or psychological … Scholarly research supports the conclusion that exposure to domestic violence is a simpler, more insidious method of inflicting harm…. While exposure to abuse may not leave visible scars, the secondary physical and psychological effects of exposure are well documented.”

The case involved a woman whose partner was facing domestic violence charges in court, including trying to choke her whilst threatening to kill her. They had a two year old son together. She was granted a Protection Order, which is the strongest civil protection order available in the state. The mother tried to extend the Protection Order to include her son, but her several applications were turned down. The Supreme Court then overturned the lower courts’ decision and granted her son a Protection Order.

The position in the UK is a little different. The decision was easily overturned in Washington due to a law which explicitly allows for domestic violence protection orders to protect victims’ loved ones. The UK has no such law.

Whilst some here might argue that the right to contact is a priority when deciding cases of this nature, we would argue quite strongly that the right to protection from harm must be considered before anything else.

What do you think? Should we have this kind of law here, or do you feel it could be abused by parents looking to get back at their partners?

Very many thanks to Charles Pragnell for alerting us to this development.