Safety Options

If you decide that you need to leave your home, the following information may help you and your family to leave safely and remain safe.

Order of Protection
An Order of Protection (OOP) is a court order issued by a municipal judge, justice of the peace, or superior court judge in a Domestic Violence proceeding to protect a person from violence. The OOP is a court order that prohibits or restricts the offender from contacting the victim. (The OOP specifies in what ways the offender’s contact with the victim is restricted.)

A Domestic Violence proceeding is a civil action handled by a municipal judge, a justice of the peace or a superior court judge. If dissolution of marriage or another family law case is pending, a superior court judge must handle it.

The OOP is a civil order. It has nothing to do with the police, the sheriff, the county attorney or the criminal court unless the order is violated. A violation of an OOP constitutes a class 1 misdemeanor (interfering with judicial proceedings) and possible contempt of court. Enforcement of the OOP is accomplished in criminal court.

The basic steps to obtaining an Order of Protection are as follows:

  1. The victim of Domestic Violence files a petition (request) for OOP in court.
  2. If granted, the judge signs the OOP.
  3. The OOP is valid when served on the offender.
  4. Once the OOP has been served, it is enforceable by law enforcement.

Who Can Get An Order Of Protection?

To get relief, the victim must establish that the relationship with the offender is one of the following that qualifies under the domestic violence definition (ARS 13-3601):

  • Relationship of victim and offender is one of marriage or former marriage or of persons residing or having resided in the same household.
  • Victim and offender have a child in common.
  • Victim or offender is pregnant by the other party.
  • Victim is related to the offender or the offender’s spouse by blood as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister, or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.
  • Victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the offender and is related by blood to a former spouse of the offender or to a person who resides or who has resided in the same household as the offender.

Simply put, this law applies to a woman’s husband, her ex-husband, her live-in boyfriend or partner, her ex-live-in boyfriend or partner, her immediate family including parents, siblings and children, the father of her born or unborn child regardless of whether they ever lived together, and her in-laws. The Domestic Violence law (ARS 13-3601) was changed in the year 2000 to eliminate the requirement that persons living together or having lived together be of “opposite sex,” in order to receive domestic violence protection. Thus lesbians and gays can get such an order.

Dating relationships are not covered by Orders of Protection. These parties are eligible to apply for Injunctions Against Harassment that afford many of the same protections. The procedure for obtaining it is much the same.

For minors, the parent, legal guardian or person who has legal custody of the minor is supposed to file the petition for OOP on the minor’s behalf, unless the judge determines otherwise. Minors granted their own OOP tend to be in their late teens.

Orders of Protection may be obtained at any municipal court, justice of the peace court, or superior court . The applicant may proceed PRO SE (without the assistance of an attorney) to get an Order of Protection. Most OOP in Arizona are filed without an attorney. All courts have the appropriate standardized forms for filing.

What Is The Purpose Of An Order Of Protection?

An Order of Protection may be obtained to protect both adults and minor children who are in danger of injury from a person covered under the law. The OOP is a preventative measure to stop incidents of domestic violence.

What Are The Grounds For An Order Of Protection?

A court is required to issue an Order of Protection if the court determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that:

  • The offender (defendant ) may commit an act of Domestic Violence.
  • The offender has committed an act of Domestic Violence within the past year or within a longer period of time if the court finds that good cause exists to consider a longer period.

In considering acts of Domestic Violence “within the past year,” the law specifies that any time that the offender has been incarcerated or out of the State of Arizona will not count.

An “Act of Domestic Violence” is any of the crimes listed in ARS 13-3601, where the relationship between the offender and the victim is one that qualifies under the Domestic Violence definition (see Who Can Get an Order of Protection, above).

Those crimes include:

  • Dangerous crimes against children.
  • Endangerment.
  • Threatening or Intimidating.
  • Assault.
  • Aggravated Assault.
  • Custodial interference.
  • Unlawful imprisonment.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Criminal trespass.
  • Criminal damage.
  • Interfering with judicial proceedings.
  • Disorderly conduct.
  • Using the telephone to terrify, intimidate, harass, threaten, annoy or offend another.
  • Harassment.
  • Aggravated harassment.
  • Stalking.
  • Child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse.

Always remember: YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE HURT OR THREATENED!

Safety planning is a crucial step. It allows you to plan for situations that you will encounter no matter what you decide to do with your relationship with your abuser. You may choose to leave the abuser, remain in the relationship, or get an order of protection and have him leave the home. You could choose to go to a shelter, or you may decide to stay with friends or family. Each option has its own risk factors that need to be considered in developing your safety plan.

Written safety plans are one way of approaching safety plans. A written plan is a risk to you if the batterer finds it, or if he is informed about the content of the plan. The written plan has the advantage of covering many bases that may be forgotten in the stress of the moment. It is best to have an advocate review the components of the plan with you, not just hand you the information and expect you to complete the safety plan independently.

As always, it is important that you make your own choices and examine your options. You know yourself and your batterer best. You know when the risk of remaining in the home and/or in the relationship becomes excessive. You know when you need to leave. It is the advocate’s responsibility to offer alternatives and to support you through your own decision-making process.

Safety Issues Before You Leave

For many reasons, you may not be ready to leave the relationship. You still needs to be safe in your home. If you have experienced violence in a cycle, as described by Lenore Walker, you must determine where you are in the cycle at the moment. An advocate can help you to identify warning signs of another serious abuse episode or explosion. This might include building tension, increasingly escalating minor incidents, or verbal threats increasing in frequency or severity. If you have not experienced violence in a cycle, you may wish to discuss any common threads in past abuse incidents with an advocate to see if there might be a pattern. Unfortunately, there may not be a pattern or a way to predict the next abuse incident. Do not assume that each abusive relationship will have this cycle of violence. Many abusive relationships have no warning signs of impending violence.

Because of lack of predictability of abuse, you need to be constantly on alert for another incident. It is best if you can identify multiple escape routes from your home, dependent on where you are located when the incident begins. Planning escape routes is best done when things are calm and not stressful. This gives you an opportunity to think about exits. Trying to avoid being trapped in a room with only one exit or where there are weapons is one issue to consider in safety planning. Kitchens and bathrooms are almost always unsafe locations for you during an abuse incident. The kitchen is dangerous because of access to things (knives, dishes, and small appliances) that can be used as weapons. The bathroom is dangerous because it tends to be a small room with one exit and with hard surfaces against which you may be hit.

Always having access to a phone with a preset emergency call function (911, police, family) is a good goal. If a portable phone is available, being able to access the phone quickly and easily is something to consider. If you do not have a phone, you may wish to discuss other options for getting emergency assistance with a domestic violence advocate.

Establishing preset signals with neighbors, friends, or family is an important feature of a safety plan. Signals might include an understanding with a neighbor that if they see flashing porch lights, hear loud noises, or a certain code word or phrase, they will know to contact the police for you. It may seem impossible to set up a support system that will respond to your appeal for help. You may be embarrassed to admit to the abuse and to ask for help. But we encourage you to explore your options.

The use of children in safety planning can be problematic, but it should be explored. Depending on the age the child and his/her relationship with the batterer, the child may be a resource to you. It is important to be clear about what is reasonable to expect of a child, safety issues with the child’s involvement, and risk of increased injury to you and/or your child if the batterer learns of the child’s involvement in a safety plan. Children can be used to contact police, to make the 911 call, or to run to a neighbor for help.

Safety at Home:

  • Do not allow yourself to be cornered in a room, especially a kitchen or bathroom.
  • Talk with your children about safe places to go and how to get help. (click the links at the bottom of this page for safety plans for children.)
  • Plan and rehearse an escape route with your children
  • If it is safe, teach them a code word to call 911, and how to use public telephone
  • Let school personnel know to whom children can be released
  • Give school personnel a photograph of the abuser
  • Warn school personnel not to divulge your address and phone number
  • Set up an emergency signal with a trusted neighbor
  • If someone is following and threatening you, find different ways to go places and tell your boss and family.
  • Copies of an Order of Protection, if you have one, should be left at each child’s school. Copies should also be given to baby sitters, employers, and lawyers.
  • Place important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, school records, and immunization records in an immediately accessible safe location.
  • Make sure all keys are easy to get to and safe. These include keys to your house, car, safety deposit box, and office.

REMEMBER: ALWAYS keep a copy of the Order of Protection wherever you go!

Pack a bag with changes of clothes, medicines, toys and whatever else you and your children need for the first 24 hours. Keep the bag in safe place.