Success!

Speaking up does work – just keep doing it and eventually something may turn around.

Last week I testified before the Senate Human Services, Reentry, and Rehabilitation Committee regarding the need to include anti-stalking language in the legal protections for vulnerable adults.  SB 5338 was the bill developed at the request of the Department of Social and Health Services which provided the changed below to RCW 74.34

Brief summary of SB 5338

The testimony I presented was the first the Committee and others had heard about the lack of legal protections against stalking predators. I am very happy to see that this committee understands this critical omission and took steps to include the change in the substitute bill which was passed out of the committee and forwarded to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

first substitute for SB 5338

Couldn’t help myself

I just happened to be going through the Washington State Legislative agendas and noticed there were amendments being  made to the Vulnerable Adult Protection Order RCW 74.34.  There are companion bills – SB 5338 and HB 1422 which both had public hearings at the same scheduled time January 30, 2019.

I had to get there by 7:45 in the morning to be sure that I would be able to address the committees and add a new amendment to this bill – that of including anti-stalking and anti-harassment language to the protections granted to vulnerable adults.  This was my opportunity to get this information shared to several legislators and hopefully other advocates so that this omission of legal protections is corrected.

Senator Darneille (Chair) and the other Senators presents (Senator O-Ban, Senator Walsh, Senator Nguyen. Senator C. Wilson and Senator Cleveland) heard my testimony and by the response I received it is hopeful that some action will take place.  I will be sure to follow up with them and also keep trying to spread the word to other advocates and legislators.

Unfortunately, due to changes in the agendas of the two simultaneous committee meetings, I was unable to get to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee to give a public comment.  I will be emailing all Representatives in that committee with this information.

My testimony starts at 1:03:24 if you would like to listen – there is much more to the story but this is a snapshot to get the ball rolling.

 

VAPO – does not protect against predators

draft vapo amendmentWashington State RCW 74.34 – The Vulnerable Adult Protection Order does not protect our vulnerable adult population from stalking or harassing predators.

We need to change this and amend RCW 74.34 to included stalking/harassment in the definitions of abuse.

This past year a woman became obsessed with our son, Thomas.  Thomas is a young adult living in Supported Living in our community.  She believed she and a famous musician were Thomas’ biological parents and they planned on taking legal action to “regain” custody of Thomas and move him into their home.  There were several attempts to abduct Thomas from his home.

An emergency temporary protection order was easily obtained (which she immediately violated several times) but when it came time to have the VAPO signed in court, the Judge could not sign it since stalking and harassment are not written into RCW 74.34

We need a legislative sponsor for this amendment – there is a draft bill already written

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.

 

VAPO – Vulnerable Adult Protection Order – Part One

This past year was met with several new and “interesting” issues that needed attention.  One such issue was our adult my adult son being stalked by a predator.  As with most situations like this, there is a “honeymoon” phase of grooming before the predator pounces on the victim.

Adult grooming is correspondent to child grooming and applies to any situation where an adult is primed to allow him or herself to be exploited or abused. While it is a common assumption that grooming is only practiced on the very young, identical emotional and psychological processes are commonly used to abuse or exploit adults the elderly, and those with compromised mental facilities.

An predator will identify and engage a victim and work to gain the target’s trust, break down defenses, and manipulate the victim until they get whatever it is they are after. Overt attention, verbal seduction (flattery / ego stroking), recruitment, physical isolation, charm, gift-giving, normalizing, gaslighting, secrecy, and threats are all hallmarks of grooming.

Looking back on what all transpired, we can see how this grooming occurred – given that Kathy also lives with schizophrenia (we did not know this beforehand – not that it would have changed anything except knowing that it is not uncommon for people to stop taking their medications  we would have watched for changes in behavior sooner) Unbeknownst to us at the time too, Kathy has a history of stopping her medications and decompensating quickly – as happened in this situation too.

Kathy is a woman that we have known of for many years (maybe 20 years or so).  She and her family were parishioners at our church when we first met them.  We really didn’t have much personal contact with the family other than saying “hi” when we ran into them on occasions and then it seemed as if the whole family disappeared for several years.  Periodically over the years, Kathy would show up alone at various events but we never saw her consistently.  The most common place would be walking around
Greenlake since members of our family make that a daily habit and maybe Kathy does too.  Then again, the contact would mostly just be a quick greeting as each person continued on their way in opposite directions.

February 2018, we were at a family dinner at church and Kathy was also there and joined us.  It was actually the most that we had talked with her for about 20 years.  We updated each other on our various children and what they were all up to.  Thomas, our son with IDD was with my husband and me.  Thomas is extremely engaging and interested in people.  He tends to draw people to him with his constant questions and interest.

Kathy picked up on this and realized that she and Thomas had some common interests – Catholic Church, going to Mass, music (especially “classic rock” music) and driving around Seattle looking at sites and listening to music in the car.  Kathy approached us to see if it would be okay for her to visit Thomas and take him the Eucharist (communion) at his home.  We thought it would be a great idea and Thomas would love it.  It would increase his “natural supports” which is typically a good thing.  There would be Thomas’ support staff there if any issues came up.  This took a couple of months for everything to be arranged and “instructions” gone over and all was good!

The first visits were a success and Thomas really enjoyed meeting with Kathy and sending her emails.  We were glad that he had a new friend and someone to share interests with.  After about 4 visits, Kathy asked about taking Thomas out and to a mass at church.  This opened up a whole new area and anxiety but we reviewed specifics about safety and behaviors, specific instructions regarding issues in the community and knowing that it would be our church they would be going to, we agreed.

Kathy followed all the instructions and she and Thomas had a great time – out for dinner, picnic in the park, mass and then driving around listening to music.  We were all feeling good about this and that it had been successful.

Unfortunately, that did not last long – within a week things got very, very crazy – something that I would never had suspected.  Kathy then began to want to see Thomas every day, take him out to mass even when he had already gone to mass,  began writing very odd messages to him and other odd behaviors.

There were plans to take him out again and she did not follow the instructions and this caused an extreme crisis in Thomas’ life.  I was informed by his staff that evening and quickly followed up with Kathy that I needed to meet with her to discuss the issues and again wrote out issues of concern and “instructions” that anyone working with Thomas needed to follow hoping that she would see that I was not singling her out but that these were “rules” that we all followed to keep Thomas safe.

I was totally unprepared for the response I received from her –

“Let’s discuss Thomas living with me for a trial. I need to discuss with my other son yet I think we could make it work for a trial or 2. He’s very calm with me and I understand his disorders very well.”

Luckily, she had gone out of town for that weekend and I knew I had a little time to compose a message which was very short and to the point –

Because of the enormous disruption triggered by your extremely late arrival with no communication on Thursday (May 3, 2018) we have decided to stop all visits between you and Thomas. Under no circumstances are you to visit or communicate with him

Her response – “For Now” and then continued to email Thomas.  Things just got more strange from there.

Kathy returned to Seattle and tried to enter Thomas’ home while I was there.  She was told to leave and the staff chased her out and we called the police.  Kathy pointed her finger at me (like she was shooting and said “bang, bang”) as she left the house.  I was totally shaking but trying not to show it because I didn’t want to scare Thomas.

After about 30 minutes I felt it was safe to leave and before I got home (10 minutes away) I received a call that Kathy had returned.  She also texted a message to my husband

“Jim please call me. Tommy is my son as you know and I want him back. I AM God and I want to see him now. I’m very concerned about his welfare. Please help me. I’m sitting outside of his house.”

This message and her actions sent us into crisis mode with police activity and court – we obtained an emergency restraining order (which she violated several times) and lived on pins and needles while also trying to remain calm for Thomas’ sake.

She began to stake out Thomas’ house, drive up and down the street, park in neighbor’s driveway and walk around Thomas’ house trying to see in his window.

Cheryl & James – Bruce and I are preparing legal action to restore custody of our son Tommy. Let us know if you choose to settle peaceably. You may receive more mercy.

We had police presence at our house and at Thomas’ house with extra staff funded through DSHS, alarms and motion sensor lights installed all around his house.

Hi James,

Are you willing to testify at Thomas’s hearing so that I can continue to visit with him? As you know, I am his biological Mother and Bruce Springsteen is his biological Father. We want him back and are aware of the voodoo problem…we can handle any complications.

We need your involvement and want Thomas to be present at the hearing. Let me know where you stand on this. We plan further legal action if I cannot visit with him. He can live with me rather than whatever Cheryl is intent upon. I love Tommy.

to be continued –

A New Low for Disability Rights Washington

I have recently been informed of a situation in which a lawyer from Disability Rights Washington – Susan Kas – removed a 19 year old young woman from her family home and took her to an undisclosed ‘shelter” in another city.  Disability Rights Washington  (DRW) is the federally funded Protection and Advocacy Agency for our state.

Last month, Amber O’Neil, age 19, went missing from Seattle and was thought to be with a 52 year old man she met at Seattle Central College.  Here is a link to the news media coverage of her missing and then of her being found in Oregon.  David Posey was the man she was with and he was taken into custody in Oregon by US Marshall Service on June 20, 2018 for parole violations and remains in prison.  He had previously been charged and found guilty of grand larceny, larceny of banknotes/checks (counterfeit money) and “simple assault of family members”.  He also had counterfeit money on his person when he was taken into custody on June 30, 2018.  Amber returned home to Seattle but continued to correspond with David Posey, claiming to be in love and wanting to marry him.  Amber’s father is against this relationship and this difference of opinion has caused some turmoil in the family.

David Posey had instructed Amber to contact DRW regarding her civil rights.  Amber did as she was instructed and DRW staff lawyer, Susan Kas, has personally been involved in helping Amber with her civil rights.

Susan Kas, staff lawyer with DRW

Susan Kas personally went to Amber’s home, served some papers to Amber’s father and together with some other staff removed Amber from her home and took her to an undisclosed “shelter”.  Amber appeared in court with about 5 DRW lawyers/staff on July 9, 2018 regarding issues of guardianship.  Adult Protective Services was also involved.

Disability Rights Washington cannot provide direct assistance in the following situations:

  • Criminal law
  • Family law
  • Assistance becoming the guardian of an individual with a disability
  • Out-of-state issues
  • Workers compensation
  • General medical malpractice & personal injury
  • General consumer bankruptcy issues
  • Any issue or problem not directly related to your disability
  • Assistance finding employment, housing or financial assistance
  • Assistance filling out forms & Social Security applications
  • Anything that is not the wish of the person with the disability

From the video Disability Rights Washington – Rooted in Rights

“when we choose how we advocate, we don’t advocate for what a person may say is best for a person with a disability, we really try to focus on the expressed interest which is different than what some people might call the best interest of someone.  That’s what we think everybody, regardless if you have a disability ought to be able to make important personal decisions for themselves.” (Susan Kas, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Washington)

Issues of Guardianship – The court needs to be involved  there are legitimate concerns in this issue regarding the relationship of a vulnerable adult with man almost 3 times her age who has a history of being convicted of grand larceny, counterfeiting and abuse.  He was on parole but is currently incarcerated after taking Amber out of state – she was missing for about 30 days – when they were located in Portland on June 30, 2018.  Common sense tells us that this relationship would be cause of concern FOR ANYONE! Having a concern about this relationship is not abuse – it is true concern for the safety, well-being and protection from exploitation of a young woman who just recently graduated from High School.

DRW sees this as a violation of Amber’s civil rights.  Are they now providing her with the counseling that her father was?  Are they providing Amber with honest choices and truth about the situation?  Or, are they using her as a PAWN to in this horrendous situation of civil rights vs. common sense and caring?  This is not a game, this is the life of a young woman who was in school and had an internship for this summer that she has now lost.  She had goals of an education and a better life.  What does she have now? What will she have in the future?

Disability Rights Washington is governed by a Board of Directors, with help from our Advisory Councils. These groups are made up of people with disabilities, family members, and others who have an interest in disability rights.

This video describes the Protection and Advocacy System

A substantial portion of the Disability Rights Washington budget is federally funded.