Prosecutor: Tougher law causes spike in domestic violence cases

SEATTLE -- Investigators say they've seen a 60 percent spike in domestic violence cases in Seattle over the last four years.

One local prosecutor believes that increase is partly related to a tougher law that is meant to protect victims from their abusers after they're arrested.

Prosecutors say assault in the second degree, strangulation, is now one of the most common crimes prosecuted in the domestic violence unit.

A woman who didn't want to reveal her identity said she's a victim of domestic violence and, like many others, her story includes a pattern of abuse.

"He cracked my left eye socket from when I was pregnant with our son and he was drunk," she said.

She said the man also tried to strangle her during the relationship and even after she got out. In 2009, her ex-boyfriend chased her down at a gas station and choked her in a park car until she went limp.

"I pretty much gave up at that point and was like, 'Well, I might as well try. Well, this is it for me," she said.

Her ex was convicted in King County on an aggravating factor charge that became law six years ago, which made strangulation a felony.

"I think the entire dynamic of the criminal justice response to domestic violence changed when that law came into effect, because a really common act of serious domestic violence became a lot more serious," said King County prosecuting attorney David Martin.

Martin is tasked with prosecuting many of King County's domestic violence cases and helped get the strangulation law passed.

He used a disturbing surveillance video to show state legislators how quickly strangulation can happen.

"There's better accountability and there's a much larger measure of safety for victims of domestic violence now because they have the protection of an aggravated assault as opposed to a simple assault," he said.

The domestic violence victim said the new law extended her ex-boyfriend's prison sentence and gave her more time to get closure from the situation. Even with the longer sentence, the woman said she still lives in fear.

"I think about it every day," she said. "It's almost like a paranoia thing where you have to learn how to think differently about everything."

During attack, the woman suffered a sprained neck with torn ligaments. She's still in pain from those injuries.