Editorial: What to do about domestic violence
Domestic violence is a serious problem cutting across class lines in society. It can creep up and catch people unaware, leaving a victim at a loss as to what it means or what to do when faced with it.
Legally, domestic violence covers far more than just hitting a relative in law or blood. It includes threatening and intimidating behavior, endangerment, disobeying a court order, trespassing, disorderly conduct, telephoning to harass, stalking and custodial interference.
Domestic violence can occur between two people who are not living together, but are boyfriend and girlfriend. In Arizona, if the incident occurs between two people who are immediately related, or two opposite sex roommates, the victim can obtain an order of protection, a type of restraining order that will prevent the abuser from having any contact with them, preventing them from using the residence.
If the parties are not related or living together, the victim may apply for an injunction against harassment, another type of restraining order similar to an order of protection, with the difference being that the victim cannot get exclusive use of the residence.
It goes without saying that domestic violence also occurs in same-sex relationships, and by women against men. Same-sex couples who live together must petition for an injunction against harassment, which provide them less protection because there is no provision for exclusive use of the residence.
Something else that most people are not aware of is that in this state, if a police officer is called because of a domestic violence incident, the law requires the officer to arrest someone. Usually it will be the man, because women are usually the victims, and victims, regardless of sex, do not like to tell the police what happened in domestic violence situations. This rule is important, because victims often hesitate to press for their batterer's arrest.
Many times the police will arrest both parties, because they are unable (or unwilling) to figure out who is responsible.
Local legal help is available for those faced with domestic violence. The University of Arizona College of Law runs a domestic violence law clinic that provides free legal services and representation to poor victims of domestic violence. Led by Zelda Harris and Julia Corty, law students help clients obtain orders of protection, defend themselves against criminal charges where they were simply defending themselves and proceed with divorces from abusive spouses.
Finally, awareness is critical on the part of both private individuals and those in the legal system. Too often, certain judges believe a husband's version of the story - even though it was the woman who called the police - and dismisses the order of protection, with a small lecture to both parties to "quit squabbling." In reality, the woman may have been repeatedly raped and sodomized.
What needs to be done? There must be continuing awareness education for judges, attorneys and private individuals. Domestic violence is a crime that comes with penalties. It should be treated as such.
Tucson restaurants Firecracker, Ovens, and Nonie will donate proceeds from dinner business tomorrow to a Tucson women's shelter.