Council considers ordinance aimed at ‘breaking cycle’ of children affected by domestic violence

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The city council listens as Council President Ben Goodwin (left) makes a point.

The Lynnwood City Council is considering adoption of an ordinance that would make it a crime to expose children to domestic violence.

The ordinance, presented to the city council at its April 15 work session meeting, would be a tool in helping city police and legal staff address the significant damage done to children who observe domestic violence, said Commander Chuck Steichen.

Under the proposal, exposing a child to domestic violence would be a gross misdemeanor under the Lynnwood Municipal Code.

“Truly, we’ve got a second set of victims that potentially exist within a residence or location where this is occurring,” Steichen said.

More than 15 million children in the U.S. observe domestic violence in their homes, with many are victims themselves. Children in these situations are at risk of experiencing long-term physical and mental health issues, Steichen said. In addition, children who are domestic violence victims are also at risk of becoming violent in their adult years, continuing a cycle of physical abuse, he said.

“By enacting an ordinance like this we would create another tier of potential crimes for a subject that was committing these acts,” Steichen said.

The ordinance would provide a two-way approach to addressing the issue by allowing charges to be brought against offenders, Steichen said. If someone with a long-term history of domestic violence was either unable or unwilling to change, law enforcement would have more options, like jail time and bail settings. Conversely, if the offender had no history of domestic violence or was willing to seek treatment through parenting or anger management classes, those options would be provided under the proposed ordinance.

“It’s an approach of duality,” he said.

According to Tiffany Krusey-Kelly, Lynnwood PD’s victim services coordinator, children who grow up in homes where they are exposed to domestic violence are often later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If we have the opportunity to break the cycle and to provide educational resources to the parents it’s a better thing for our community,” she said.

In other business, the city council reviewed the agenda for the council’s April 29 joint summit meeting with city staff. The last joint summit was in 2012. The objective is for council to meet with department directors, deputy directors and other city staff to promote open lines of communication, which will ensure the best possible outcomes for the city’s vision, said Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Sordel.

“We have begun to work through some very important issues and policies that are shaping our city,” he said. “Policies that will shape this city for another generation.”

Lynnwood has finally achieved its goal of being a regional model, said Mayor Nicola Smith.

“It’s not a vision anymore,” she said. “It is unbelievable to me how many people are looking at Lynnwood.”

The summit meeting, moderated by former Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, April 29, in the council chambers, Lynnwood City Hall.

The  council also interviewed Nick Coello, the mayor’s recommended appointment to Position 6 on the Parks and Recreation Board. The council will decide at its April 22 business meeting whether to appoint Coello to the vacant position.

–Story and photo by Cody Sexton

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