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Domestic Violence: Notes & Sources


Assault, aggravated:  an attack by one person on another for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury, usually involving a weapon or means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

Assault, simple: an attack or attempted attack by one person on another in which no weapon was used and that did not result in serious or aggravated injury to the victim. Simple assault is the most common type of reported domestic violence in King County.

Child abuse: Although domestic violence includes crimes against children, the term “child abuse” has a broader definition.  Child abuse is the physical, psychological ,or sexual mistreatment, or physical neglect of children by their parents or guardians.  Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, but rates are hard to estimate because much abuse goes unreported. Child Protective Services (CPS) receives reports of suspected abuse involving children in King County.  An “accepted referral” does not mean abuse has occurred, but that the case was screened according to legal guidelines and found to warrant further investigation.  No data are available on the proportion of accepted referrals in King County that find actual abuse or neglect.

Confidence interval (also called "error bar") is the range of values that includes the true value 95% of the time. If the confidence intervals of two groups do not overlap, the difference between groups is statistically significant (meaning that chance or random variation is unlikely to explain the difference).   

Domestic violence is defined by Washington State law as “physical harm, bodily injury, assault, the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, sexual assault, or stalking” by family or household members.  It includes intimate partner violence, abuse of children, and property crimes against related and unrelated people who live together.

King County regions: The geographic boundaries of the four King County sub-regions (North, Seattle, East, and South) are defined by the aggregation of ZIP codes.

Major domestic violence refers to 4 kinds of domestic violence offenses:  murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault (assault involving a weapon capable of causing serious injury).

Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) is a multi-ethnic, community-based organization that offers comprehensive culturally and linguistically appropriate services to refugee and immigrant communities in King and Snohomish Counties (formerly Southeast Asian Women’s Alliance). ReWA has a special program for victims of domestic violence.

Violation of Protection Orders domestic violence offenses include violations of court-ordered no-contact, protection, restraining, and anti-harassment orders that involve domestic violence.

  • Protection Orders are civil orders for victims of domestic violence who have been assaulted, threatened, or stalked and are afraid of being hurt again. The court tells the “family or household member" who threatened or assaulted the victim not to harm them again. This order is requested by the victim at any local court, and domestic violence criminal charges need not be filed.
  • No Contact Orders are criminal orders for victims of domestic violence, after criminal charges have been filed against the abuser by a Prosecuting Attorney. No Contact Orders are requested by the Prosecutor, and stop the abuser from contacting the victim through phone, letter, or by sending messages through friends or family. This order is intended to protect a victim during prosecution of the criminal case.
  • Restraining Orders are civil orders usually issued in divorce, legal separation, paternity, or child-custody cases. They prohibit a person from contacting another person, or from committing violent acts. This order is usually filed by the lawyer representing an individual in Superior Court.
  • Anti-harassment Orders are civil orders filed by a person who has been annoyed or harassed by another person. These orders prevent the other person from contacting the victim or coming to the victim’s house, school, or workplace.


Child Protective Services Referrals: Data Table

Statistical significance: Unless otherwise noted, any difference mentioned in the text is statistically significant (unlikely to have occurred by chance).

Trend discontinuities: Changes in collection of domestic violence (DV) data in 2008 produced 2 major discontinuities in long-term trends. 

  • In 2008, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) implemented a new data reporting system. The department has stated that, as officers adapted to the new system, DV offenses were probably undercounted. 
    • Seattle’s reported rates of major DV dropped steeply in 2008, rebounding in 2009.  The sharp decline in Seattle DV reports drove a 2008 drop and 2009 recovery in King County rates.
    • The SPD’s DV Unit has suggested that victim behavior also changed during this period, and that the change was probably linked to the economic downturn in 2007.  The 2007 decline in DV reports was surprising, since rates of DV tend to rise in times of economic distress. Reporting of DV murder and rape did not change in 2007, while reports of less serious DV offenses dropped abruptly. SPD suspects this was a response to concern about the economic consequences of police intervention in a tight housing market.  From 2006 to 2008, DV-related calls to the King County Crisis Clinic increased 115%, suggesting that the underlying incidence of DV did not change.
  • As part of a data system upgrade in 2008, the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) discontinued collection of Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) domestic violence offense data for patrol districts.  KCSO continued to report UCR DV totals for the unincorporated areas of King County. Without local UCR data, Communities Count cannot compute DV rates for the East, North, and South regions that include unincorporated areas. 

Underreporting of domestic violence: Data on the actual amount of domestic violence are not available. Most intimate partner victimization and other domestic violence are not reported to the police. However, the extent of violence in the household can be inferred from numbers of reported domestic violence crimes and cases of suspected child abuse investigated by Child Protective Services.

Data Sources

Children accepted by Child Protective Services:  The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Children's Administration, Famlink database including converted CAMIS and new FAMLINK records provided data on the number of children with known ages accepted by Child Protective Services (CPS) for investigation or services. These are unduplicated counts of accepted CPS intakes, including those that were initially accepted and later screened-out by intake and CPS intakes that were screened-in but not investigated because they were assigned to an alternative response. Victim counts are duplicated, meaning that if a victim was referred more than once during the year or across years the victim will be counted for each referral.

Domestic violence data come from the annual Crime in Washington reports published by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (  Data are submitted monthly by individual law enforcement agencies in each county to the WASPC, and are consistent with FBI national crime reporting standards.  All major crimes that occurred in King County and were reported to law enforcement authorities are counted. The perpetrators and victims may not be residents of King County, as crimes are reported by the jurisdiction in which they occurred.

Domestic violence data include crimes committed by past or current intimates, immediate or extended family members, or non-family members of the household. These figures cover only reported crimes judged to involve a domestic relationship, and do not include noncriminal aspects such as psychological abuse. Many acts of abuse and violence against family members are never reported.

Data from the King County Sheriff's Office Annual Reports provide more geographic specificity about crimes reported to that agency in unincorporated areas of the county and in cities for which the Sheriff’s Office provides public safety services.  Annual and quarterly reports are available at Counts in the Sheriff’s Office reports do not necessarily match the counts reported to WASPC, as different standards are used for reporting some crimes.

Other Sources

Communities Count Survey (2011):  Respondents came from a random sample of all King County households.  Due to the limitations of surveys that rely exclusively on landline telephones, Communities Count used a mixed-mode survey involving both random-digit-dial phone contact and address-based sampling for mailed questionnaires, with an internet response option as well. Phone interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, and, upon request, a few additional languages. Possible limitations of this kind of survey include: (a) people who do not have a telephone or a permanent address are missed; (b) people who do not speak English or Spanish may not participate; (c) people who have less education and lower incomes tend to be under-represented.

Definition of domestic violence in Washington State comes from Domestic Violence Information website of Washington Courts: .

Definitions of types of domestic violence come from the Washington State Uniform Crime Reports, which are compiled annually by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) (

Maps of King County covering a wide range of topics can be accessed at  Maps most immediately relevant to Communities Count are under the headings of Community data & demographics, Public health, and Environment & natural resources, but other maps should be useful as well (farmers markets, transit routes, walking and biking routes, parks, traffic counts, etc.).

Intergenerational domestic violence:  RA Pollak. An intergenerational model of domestic violence, Journal of Population Economics (2004), v17(2,Jun), 311-329.

Quotes:  Communities Count interviewed 32 King County parents or guardians raising at least one child younger than 6 years of age.  We reached out to communities of color, recent immigrants, and residents with limited English proficiency to achieve a broad range of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity. We interviewed both families with very low household income and those who earned up to median income (about $68,000 for a family of four in 2010). Family structures included single-parent households, couples living in consensual unions, married couples, and extended families.