Show me the Evidence

It’s been a grueling couple of weeks with two court cases to prepare for regarding issues that stemmed from being an advocate.  When I first began being public with advocacy I never knew how political or nasty some of the situations could get.  From my perspective and those I work closely with or those who know me and my son, it all seems so common sense.  Well, that’s not the case and it leads to so much frustration, misunderstanding and worse – harassment and libel.

I represented myself in court as the petitioner, the respondent hired a lawyer and of course that did put me at a disadvantage but I believed that the truth would prevail and if the Judge read the law correctly, it would be clear that I had been the victim of harassment.  In actuality, I am also the victim of libel and slander and the judge did mention several times that I should hire a lawyer and file a case for libel/slander.  At this point I am not going to follow the judges recommendations since I was granted the anti-harassment protection order and if the respondent is not able to adhere to this order there will be criminal charges filed.  My hope is that the respondent will stop the behavior that caused this situation and move on.

What is really strange is that we really do agree on many things but this person would never know that because from the very first interaction with me they had false and preconceived impression of who I am and what I believe in.  The fact that the only in-person conversation I had with this person, they started out by saying “you’re abusive” and quickly escalated to them swearing at me and storming away.  (At that time the person was a Co-Chair of a City of Seattle Commission and a public representative for Seattle)

As with every experience that I have, I learn a lot, I make mistakes and I learn from those mistakes too.

There were a couple of funny things –

I provided a letter that the respondent had written to my employer  (I work as a RN and the respondent has never been a patient of mine nor do I have any interaction with them in the healthcare arena).  The letter was filled with fabrications twisting shreds of truth into fantasy events and outright libel.  The respondent’s lawyer agreed to submission of the letter and stated “and we not only submit it but we ENDORSE it”

Later, the lawyer referred to that very same document as “hearsay”  The judge did call her out on that saying “the respondent wrote this letter – you endorsed it, it’s not hearsay”

The Judge sent the respondent’s lawyer and me into a meeting room in hopes of coming to an agreement so that the protection order would not have to be filed.   The lawyer was clearly irritated with me from the very beginning with an attitude of superiority and smugness – I did not agree to the offer they put before me and in trying to explain why to the lawyer, she threw her hands up and stormed out of the room and said “well I’ll just tell the judge you can’t agree to anything”  OKAY –

Back to the courtroom – as it turns out their offer was for me to basically stop advocating for my son and others, have no contact with The Arc of King County or attend any of their events (this is where the respondent works) – Of course I would refuse – this would make it virtually impossible to continue to advocate for those I work with.  I’m already banished from the Parent to Parent support groups moderated by The Arc of King County due to issues caused by me calling out behaviors of the respondent. The judge did agree and stated that he would never sign an agreement that would take away the right of free speech.

So with that – we went to a real hearing and I prevailed and left the court with my anti-harassment protection order signed and in place.  Perseverance can pay off but I’m ready to be done with this and move on to much more positive work in family advocacy.  We have a long way to go.

A couple more sidebars to this case:

  1. The Respondent provided declarations from at least 4 people they have worked with in regards to advocacy.   None of these declarations dealt with the issue before the judge but all expressed what a terrific person the respondent was and how devoted they are to the cause (This was never a contested issue – in fact, I agreed with much of what the people who wrote declarations wrote.)  The fact remains though that just because a person works hard and gets along with those who totally agree or cater to them, does not mean that the person does not harass others – that is what the case was about so these declarations were totally useless with regards to the facts of the case before the judge.
  2. When the judge stated that he was going to sign the order, the respondent’s lawyer stood up and requested that the judge sign an order of protection for the respondent also.   The judge said “No, it doesn’t work that way”  The respondent filed a petition last year, it was denied, this order is due to the escalation of harassment the respondent has caused since their order was denied”
  3. One of the declarations was written by a person I have never met  (Brian Dahl) I know the name and apparently he was at some Self Advocates In Leadership meeting that I took my son to.  This is what he wrote about my “behavior” at the meeting:

“She, with her son, attended a monthly meeting of this group about a year ago.  I was also in attendance.  Her presence was slightly disrupting but not enough to stop the meeting.  She did nothing to engage in a productive dialogue when she was there and she left early”

Interesting viewpoint of my actions there – what this person does not know is that I was working extremely hard to keep my son from being extremely disrupting to the meeting.  I was not there for me to participate but for my son to try to participate.  We left early because my son was getting more and more agitated and I was trying to avoid a fiasco from happening.    I really wish we could have stayed because after we left there was an issue that my son does have an opinion on and he was not able to stay to address that issue.

I find it extremely telling of this response from Brian Dahl that there is so little understanding of working with those who need extensive supports – both physically and behaviorally to participate in community events.  Mr. Dahl, if you have suggestions on how to include those with disruptive behavior, please contact me and let me know your thoughts.  Right now I see your comment only reinforcing what I and many others have experienced – that many in the self-advocacy and advocacy movement have very little understanding or awareness of what those  with  extremely high support needs choices and desires are because they are excluded from venues that address issues that directly affect their lives.

When they are excluded how do you reconcile the saying “Nothing about us without us?”

 

VAPO – Vulnerable Adult Protection Order – Part 2

stalking

Abuse of Vulnerable Adults – RCW 74.34 refers to “abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation and neglect” as the types of actions that vulnerable adults may need protection from.

This law does not address the fact that vulnerable adults are at the same risk, if not higher risk, of being stalked and harassed by predators.   As a vulnerable adult, there is no protection under Washington State law to protect a vulnerable adult from the abuse of stalking or harassment.  These actions are not included in the definition of “abuse” as written in RCW 74.34.  The definition of abuse is left open to interpretation and is not specific in naming stalking or harassment as forms of abuse.

We propose that language which defines stalking and harassment be

included into RCW 74.34 so that our Vulnerable Adults have the same

protections against predators available to them as every other citizen

in our state. 

As a review, please read the issues that led to my discovery of this critical omission in our law.  I have written a “short synopsis” of the issues that transpired in the post linked here as VAPO – Vulnerable Adult Protection Order – Part One.

We had an emergency protection order in place (which Kathy violated several times) but at the court hearing to finalize the order, the Judge would not sign it because “abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation or neglect” did not occur.  The Judge was clearly disturbed by Kathy’s actions and also agreed that Thomas needed protection – but the Judge said the way the law was written, he could not legally sign the order.

This also brought up the problem of the interpretation of abuse.  What I consider “abuse” to Thomas would not necessarily be abuse to me or any other adult.  It is individualized, and in this situation, the actions were abusive to Thomas.  But without knowing Thomas, the Judge would not be able to understand how extremely distressed some actions of others make him.

This is how we came to the point we are at now – we need to have a sponsor in our Washington State Legislature for this amendment to RCW 74.34.  We have a draft that was prepared by former Senator Maralyn Chase but unfortunately, she was not re-elected for 2019.   Bill Request for Revision to VAPO

Please – contact your legislators regarding this critical issue.  My senator is unable to sponsor this since he has already over-committed but will support any amendment which addresses this.

RCW 74.34.110

Protection of vulnerable adults—Petition for protective order.

An action known as a petition for an order for protection of a vulnerable adult in cases of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect is created.

The critical piece that is missing is that this RCW does not include protection or restraints from stalking or harassment (as defined in RCW 9A.46.110  – text of this RCW below) 

(1) A vulnerable adult, or interested person on behalf of the vulnerable adult, may seek relief from abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect, or the threat thereof, by filing a petition for an order for protection in superior court.
(2) A petition shall allege that the petitioner, or person on whose behalf the petition is brought, is a vulnerable adult and that the petitioner, or person on whose behalf the petition is brought, has been abandoned, abused, financially exploited, or neglected, or is threatened with abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect by respondent.
(3) A petition shall be accompanied by affidavit made under oath, or a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, stating the specific facts and circumstances which demonstrate the need for the relief sought. If the petition is filed by an interested person, the affidavit or declaration must also include a statement of why the petitioner qualifies as an interested person.
(4) A petition for an order may be made whether or not there is a pending lawsuit, complaint, petition, or other action pending that relates to the issues presented in the petition for an order for protection.
(5) Within ninety days of receipt of the master copy from the administrative office of the courts, all court clerk’s offices shall make available the standardized forms and instructions required by RCW 74.34.115.
(6) Any assistance or information provided by any person, including, but not limited to, court clerks, employees of the department, and other court facilitators, to another to complete the forms provided by the court in subsection (5) of this section does not constitute the practice of law.
(7) A petitioner is not required to post bond to obtain relief in any proceeding under this section.
(8) An action under this section shall be filed in the county where the vulnerable adult resides; except that if the vulnerable adult has left or been removed from the residence as a result of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect, or in order to avoid abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect, the petitioner may bring an action in the county of either the vulnerable adult’s previous or new residence.
(9) No filing fee may be charged to the petitioner for proceedings under this section. Standard forms and written instructions shall be provided free of charge.
So even though the issues of stalking, harassment

RCW 74.34.130

Protection of vulnerable adults—Judicial relief.

While under the RCW, it is written that the court may order protection for vulnerable adults and restraining of the respondent from acts or actions which could be defined as stalking/harassment, it is not clearly defined.  This leaves the vulnerable adult in a precarious position which is not clearly defined by Washington State Law. 

The court may order relief as it deems necessary for the protection of the vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to the following:
(1) Restraining respondent from committing acts of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation against the vulnerable adult;
(2) Excluding the respondent from the vulnerable adult’s residence for a specified period or until further order of the court;
(3) Prohibiting contact with the vulnerable adult by respondent for a specified period or until further order of the court;
(4) Prohibiting the respondent from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance from a specified location;
(5) Requiring an accounting by respondent of the disposition of the vulnerable adult’s income or other resources;
(6) Restraining the transfer of the respondent’s and/or vulnerable adult’s property for a specified period not exceeding ninety days; and
(7) Requiring the respondent to pay a filing fee and court costs, including service fees, and to reimburse the petitioner for costs incurred in bringing the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.
Any relief granted by an order for protection, other than a judgment for costs, shall be for a fixed period not to exceed five years. The clerk of the court shall enter any order for protection issued under this section into the judicial information system.

RCW 9A.46.110

Stalking.

(1) A person commits the crime of stalking if, without lawful authority and under circumstances not amounting to a felony attempt of another crime:
(a) He or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person; and
(b) The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or of another person. The feeling of fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances; and
(c) The stalker either:
(i) Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or
(ii) Knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person.
(2)  (a) It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(i) of this                  section that the stalker was not given actual notice that the person did not want         the stalker to contact or follow the person; and
       (b) It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(ii) of this                 section that the stalker did not intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the                     person.
(3) It shall be a defense to the crime of stalking that the defendant is a licensed private investigator acting within the capacity of his or her license as provided by chapter 18.165RCW.
(4) Attempts to contact or follow the person after being given actual notice that the person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the stalker intends to intimidate or harass the person. “Contact” includes, in addition to any other form of contact or communication, the sending of an electronic communication to the person.
(5)   (a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, a person who stalks another                   person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(b) A person who stalks another is guilty of a class B felony if any of the following applies:
(i) The stalker has previously been convicted in this state or any other state of any crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, of the same victim or members of the victim’s family or household or any person specifically named in a protective order;
(ii) the stalking violates any protective order protecting the person being stalked;
(iii) the stalker has previously been convicted of a gross misdemeanor or felony stalking offense under this section for stalking another person;
(iv) the stalker was armed with a deadly weapon, as defined in RCW 9.94A.825, while stalking the person;
(v)
(A) the stalker’s victim is or was a law enforcement officer; judge; juror; attorney; victim advocate; legislator; community corrections’ officer; an employee, contract staff person, or volunteer of a correctional agency; court employee, court clerk, or courthouse facilitator; or an employee of the child protective, child welfare, or adult protective services division within the department of social and health services; and
(B) the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim for an act the victim performed during the course of official duties or to influence the victim’s performance of official duties; or
(vi) the stalker’s victim is a current, former, or prospective witness in an adjudicative proceeding, and the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim as a result of the victim’s testimony or potential testimony.
(6) As used in this section:
(a) “Correctional agency” means a person working for the department of natural resources in a correctional setting or any state, county, or municipally operated agency with the authority to direct the release of a person serving a sentence or term of confinement and includes but is not limited to the department of corrections, the indeterminate sentence review board, and the department of social and health services.
(b) “Follows” means deliberately maintaining visual or physical proximity to a specific person over a period of time. A finding that the alleged stalker repeatedly and deliberately appears at the person’s home, school, place of employment, business, or any other location to maintain visual or physical proximity to the person is sufficient to find that the alleged stalker follows the person. It is not necessary to establish that the alleged stalker follows the person while in transit from one location to another.
(c) “Harasses” means unlawful harassment as defined in RCW 10.14.020.
(d) “Protective order” means any temporary or permanent court order prohibiting or limiting violence against, harassment of, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to another person.
(e) “Repeatedly” means on two or more separate occasions.