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Option For Child Victims To Testify Remotely Is Rarely Used, Says Lawmaker

Although there’s a law on the books in Washington that allows child victims of sexual abuse to testify remotely, a state lawmaker says the option isn’t being used often enough.

State Rep. Lilian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, is also a mental health counselor. For years, she’s worked with child victims of sexual abuse.

“I still remember the very first one that I had to go and support as she had to give testimony at the age of 5, having to face her perpetrator,” Ortiz-Self said.

But, as Ortiz-Self found out, it doesn’t have to be this way.

State law allows for kids to sit in another room, in front of a camera, with a parent or therapist by their side as they tell their story.

To find out why this isn’t really being done much, Ortiz-Self contacted child advocacy centers and prosecuting attorney’s offices around the state.

“The overwhelming response was, 'Well, we’re not using it, we didn’t know we could, well, we weren’t aware of that,'” Ortiz-Self said.

To increase awareness, Ortiz-Self has introduced a bill, HB1898, that would require victims to be told about the option of testifying remotely and to include more information about it in training sessions for prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system who deal with sexual abuse crimes against children.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.