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Arizona domestic violence laws can help protect you in many ways, as the following post covers. Note, though, that if you are in an abusive situation, it is best to use a safe computer not located in your house. Your abuser can track the history of websites you have visited. Your local library is a good place to find additional information. You can also use a friend’s computer or a computer at your job if permitted by your employer. If you do not have access to another computer, use a password that is hard to guess and change it frequently. If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and take steps to keep yourself safe until help arrives.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
How do Arizona domestic violence laws define “domestic violence”?
Domestic violence is a widespread problem that affects people of all ages and genders. One in four women and one in seven men have been victimized in their lifetime, with 20 people being abused per minute in the U.S. alone.
This translates to roughly ten million reported cases of abuse per year. You are more than just a domestic violence statistic, though. Here’s what you need to know.
Arizona domestic violence laws define domestic violence as a violent act committed against a person in one of the following cases (Title 13-3601):
- The victim and the accused are married, divorced, or living in the same household.
- Victim and the accused have a child together or are expecting a child together.
- The victim is related to the accused or the accused’s spouse by blood, law, or other legal tie. Stepparents, stepsiblings, and other relations by marriage are included.
- The victim and the accused have or had a romantic or sexual relationship.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, or mental abuse. There are 29 separate categories of offenses, ranging from endangerment as a class one misdemeanor to violence with a weapon as a class six felony. The family relationship that exists defines these violent acts as domestic violence.
How do Arizona domestic violence laws handle reports?
Once you report domestic violence, the decision to charge your abuser is no longer up to you. Domestic violence is a criminal act, and Arizona domestic violence laws are strict.
Domestic violence misdemeanor crimes are sent to the city prosecutor’s office. Victims do have the ability to speak with the prosecutor in charge of their case, but ultimately the prosecutor decides whether to charge the accused.
You can read more about Arizona domestic violence laws here.
How can I get help if I’m suffering from domestic violence?
The first step is to realize that it is not your fault. You are not responsible for your abuser’s behavior. You did nothing to deserve any form of abuse.
Even if it is difficult for you to realize this, it is important to take steps to keep you (and your children and other loved ones) safe from further abuse.
Step 1: Develop a safety plan at home
If you can’t leave immediately, develop a plan to stay safe at home until you can.
- Avoid rooms with only one exit
- Use a code word to tell friends, family, and children to call the police
- Leave clothes at a friend’s house in case you need to leave urgently
- Update information at your child’s school (e.g., to whom your child can be released and a “do not disclose” form for address and telephone number)
- Remove weapons from the home, if possible
- If removing weapons is not possible, removing bullets from firearms and limit access to knives
These actions may help while you plan for the next step.
Step 2: Create an escape plan
One of the main reasons victims do not leave their abuser is that they have nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. An escape plan can help you gather resources to get away from your abuser.
Identify friends and family to stay with and begin to move clothing and important papers to their house, including your children’s birth certificates, your birth certificate, Social Security cards, public benefits identification, and medical insurance cards.
You will also need to gather money and any legal documents you have, such as leases, marriage or divorce papers, and registrations or titles to cars or other property you own.
Make a copy of your car keys and hide them outside of the house.
Many victims may also choose not to leave because they do not want to leave their pets. The Animal Welfare Institute has a list of organizations that offer shelter for the pets of victims of domestic violence. Some of these shelters are open for pets and humans alike. Use their search tool to locate shelter for your pets.
Many victims stay just one day too long. If you feel like your life or the life of your children is in imminent peril, leave and go directly to a police station. They will help keep you safe and help you locate emergency shelters.
Step 3: Stay safe once you’re out
Filing for an order of protection (commonly called a restraining order) is one of the first steps you will take after getting out of the abusive situation.
After that, remember the following tips to stay safe:
- Provide your child’s school with a photo of your abuser
- Tell your employer and supply them with a photo as well
- Recruit friends and family to escort you and your children to school and work
- Use a personal alarm or noisemaker in case of emergency
- Use alternate routes and vary your daily routine as much as possible to make it harder for your abuser to track you
Step 4: Prepare yourself for the future
When you leave a violent domestic situation, the future can seem bleak. You may be physically injured and dealing with your trauma, emotionally and mentally.
Locating a support group for yourself and your children can help, as can talking to a dedicated therapist who handles abuse situations. This is especially important if you will face your abuser in court.
What should I expect if a domestic violence case goes to trial?
If your domestic violence case goes to trial, you may be expected to testify. You are entitled to a Victim Advocate to assist you in this. They can help explain what to expect during the trial and can:
- Act as a link between you and the prosecutor
- Keep you up-to-date on your case and confirm court dates and location
- Help with referrals for counseling, shelter, food, etc.
- Answer questions regarding any part of the pretrial, trial, sentencing, and appeal process
- Escort you to and from court and remain with you while you testify
- Stay with you in a private area before you testify
- Help you submit a Victim Impact Statement and a Restitution request
- Provide you with resources and referrals to other social service agencies that offer financial and supportive services
Managing the process of putting your life back together after leaving an abusive situation can be challenging. Arizona domestic violence laws are here to support you and to provide the resources you need to get back on your feet.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, there is help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) and the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (602-279-2900 or 1-800-782-6400) are great places to find shelter and gather resources. The NCDAV also has an extensive list of national organizations that support victims of domestic violence of all kinds.
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.