In a time when it feels like we wake every day to a new challenge, we were heartened on Monday to receive a justice-filled reminder that progress is still possible. The Court of Appeals stood with Sandra and survivors across Washington—just in time to help us celebrate the final days of Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

Sandra had asked the court for a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) against her husband, Joshua, but she didn’t receive a full protection order until eight months later. Joshua had pending criminal charges against him, and convinced the court to postpone the DVPO hearing five times, claiming that his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination would be negatively impacted.

In its decision, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the law’s intent, stating that “an eight-month delay does not fulfill the [law’s] purpose of providing Sandra easy, quick, and effective access to the court.”

This reaffirmation will surely change lives. The problem Sandra faced is all too common. Courts often refuse to grant survivors permanent protection orders if their abusers are also facing criminal charges. This results in survivors receiving only temporary orders that provide them with less protection than a permanent order—and also forces survivors to go back to court repeatedly to keep the temporary orders until the criminal case is finally resolved.

The Court specifically recognized the barriers survivors face when given temporary protection, such as being unable to take time off work or find child care and transportation to repeatedly go back to court. Further, the Court recognized the stronger protections that are available to survivors when they receive permanent orders rather than temporary ones.

We are thrilled for Sandra, and for all survivors who now have this strong interpretation of the law behind them.

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