Two bills sponsored by state Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45) would make it easier for victims of domestic violence and stalking to get restraining orders against perpetrators. Both bills had hearings in the state house judiciary committee earlier today.

The first proposal would add privacy protections to people who seek no-contact orders against abusers, and would increase the penalties for violating a no-contact order.

Although most of those who testified on the bill today supported the proposal in general, the most controversial element of the bill turned out to be a provision allowing domestic violence victims to change their names and the names of their children and then seal the court records, ensuring that an abuser can't track the victim down.

Opponents of that provision---including a representative of the state bar association and a speaker representing "Dads Divorced By Their Wives"---argued that the provision allowing mothers (most DV victims are women, so I'm using the female gender here) to change their names and the name of their children privately, as opposed to doing so in a public court proceeding, would allow women to restrict men's ability to contact and see their children without a good reason for doing so.

"The problem is that under this bill, a victim [of domestic violence] can go to any county and ask for a name change, not only of herself but of her children [with] notice" to the father, said Rick Bartholomew, legislative coordinator for the Washington State Bar Association's family law division. "Now the other parent has no way of finding his children or seeing his children because he doesn't know what the child's name is."

In response, domestic violence advocates argued that DV victims who change their names are the most desperate of all victims---so desperate, in fact, that they're willing to give up their names, their job history, and their educational records in order to escape from their victimizers.

"The bar association misunderstands the prevalence of the use of this particular problem," said Grace Huang, public policy coordinator for the Washington Coalition to Prevent Domestic Violence. "These are not cases of people who want to just hide to get back at the person" who abused them. Changing one's name, Huang noted, does not exempt a person from laws against kidnapping one's children.

Another Goodman proposal would create a new protective order for victims of stalking who don't qualify for domestic violence protective orders. In other words, people who have been stalked (by someone they know or by a stranger) could apply for protective orders even if they aren't in immediate danger of physical or sexual assault.