In a recent published opinion, the Washington Court of Appeals held that one reason for terminating the parental rights of a mother was that her “history as a victim of domestic violence” put her children at risk. Legal Voice filed an amicus brief in this case supporting the mother’s request that the Court reconsider its decision, which establishes a dangerous precedent for survivors of domestic violence in Washington State.
We believe the opinion wrongly suggests that the mother, Itzel Jiminez Salazar, is an unfit parent in part because she was a victim of domestic violence. The Court’s opinion questioned her “poor relationship choices” and used victim-blaming language, stating that she “associated with an abusive man” and involved herself in “risky relationships.”
Legal Voice has long fought to ensure domestic violence survivors in Washington State know that the law is on their side and is in place to protect them and their families. We are deeply concerned that the opinion undermines that message by establishing the fear that survivors could lose their children by reporting domestic violence. We are hopeful that the Court will realize the impact this ruling could have on women throughout Washington and will reconsider its opinion.
Special thanks to Molly Terwilliger of Summit Law Group for serving as Legal Voice’s cooperating counsel on the brief.