Domestic violence victims facing abuse FaceTime Scottsdale City Court

Domestic violence victims can now remotely participate in what was often a “traumatic” experience facing alleged abusers at court hearings while seeking orders of protection. (Submitted photo)

In the age of technology, a new option has emerged for local domestic violence victims who historically would have come face-to-face with their abusers to receive any court-ordered protection.

Whereas statistics show that in Arizona, every 44 minutes one or more children witness domestic violence, the Scottsdale City Court is now utilizing the cell-phone enabled program, FaceTime, to assist victims.

From 2016 to 2018, there was a total of 3,438 domestic violence incidents reported in Scottsdale, according to the Scottsdale Police Department’s records division. Many of those individuals went to the city court to seek protective orders against their abusers.

In efforts to flee their abusers and get protection, victims often come face-to-face with them again in court. Now, there is a new provision that allows victims to FaceTime the court instead of facing their abusers.

The Scottsdale City Court and Chrysalis — a Scottsdale-based safe haven serving domestic violence victims — have partnered for a pilot program enabling individuals to appear remotely before judges presiding over cases like an order of protection against alleged abusers and allowing them to remain in a safe environment.

“Video conferencing through FaceTime is such a unique opportunity,” said Chrysalis President/CEO Patricia Klahr.

Ms. Klahr says the endeavor offers a safe means of communication between those who sought refuge in Chrysalis’ emergency shelter, while pursuing protective orders through City Court.

The technology ensures a victim’s safety during tumultuous times whereas the person would traditionally have to appear in court and see the accused abuser.

Before the pilot program began on April 15, the former setting could be “traumatizing” for the victim to have to face their abusers in court after fleeing the relationship, noted Ms. Klahr.

“It’s going to make it better because you can be right there with an advocate and you are not having to leave our environment. I think that makes a difference,” she said about the program’s advantages.

900 court filings a year

From the pilot’s trial run to the technical side involving documentation, Ms. Klahr said the program still has a lot of “moving pieces.” The pilot will be reviewed six months after the initial date of implementation to gauge the overall program and possible improvements.

The virtual process, which varies in time, can take a few minutes or an hour or more. How soon a hearing is scheduled can depend on how thorough documents are completed before getting on a judge’s docket.

“Once you get on the docket with a judge, things can move rather quickly with it. Once the actual hearing takes place, if all the information is on the paperwork it can take 15-20 minutes or longer. There may be a lot of questions and it may take longer,” Ms. Klahr said.

As the program progresses, the two entities will determine what works best to make sure the program is successful and make adjustments along the way.

The pilot program is starting with the emergency shelter and Ms. Klahr anticipates the program will broaden to include other facets of Chrysalis. She said that somebody will not even have to live or work in Scottsdale to access the program at some point after the program expands.

“Without a doubt it’s easier just from time efficiency,” Ms. Klahr said, adding that the program has already been used from the safety of the shelter and has been seamless.

The court handles about 900 filings for protective orders annually and looks for ways to improve access, noted Scottsdale City Court Administrator Ken Kung.

“Our judges and court staff are committed to programs that provide better access to the court,” said Scottsdale Associate City Judge Statia Hendrix. “With the assistance of our community partner, this pilot creates a safe and supportive alternative for victims who petition the court for a protective order.”

Focusing much of her career on addressing domestic violence-related issues, she spearheaded the project with Chrysalis representatives after gaining more insight on how to protect victims during a recent summit she attended on domestic violence awareness.

No additional cost is involved to run the pilot permitting the victim/petitioner to obtain protective orders via FaceTime without physically appearing in the courtroom since the Scottsdale court already has the equipment and infrastructure available.

On the other hand, “technology is a real factor” and can be detrimental to many seeking safety as the digital footprint makes tracking easy for some stalkers, said Ms. Klahr.

She added that the pilot program, however, is secure when sending sensitive information.

“Keep in mind, people can track people in so many different ways,” she added.

Ms. Klahr stressed the importance of people in domestic violence situations understanding the need for extreme caution, especially when participating on social media, which is often discouraged.

She said some abusers will resort to using GPS to follow individuals and geotagging that identifies where victims are located when engaging in online activity.

“We’ve had to work on that. There are things that people should and should not do,” Ms. Klahr said, recommending that some victims consider changing their online profiles, going private or avoiding the various social media and online platforms.

Scottsdale Police Department Sgt. Ben Hoster said domestic violence incidents are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“Not to generalize — but if somebody’s in a situation that they cannot remove themselves from or if they fear that the other party may continue to stalk or cause problems — then they might seek protection to gain relief from that other party,” he said.

Noting that all calls have the potential to be dangerous, Mr. Hoster described common police protocol from receiving a call for service to arriving on scene, attempting to “try to calm everybody down,” stabilizing the situation, interviewing reporting parties, witnesses and suspects to determine if a crime occurred; and if one has occurred “then we would arrest the suspect.”

However, he said police only respond to incidents that they get called for.

“Oftentimes, neighbors will call,” Ms. Klahr said. “People want to think that abuse doesn’t happen in their neighborhood, in their backyard. It happens as often in Scottsdale as Phoenix or Glendale.”

What data shows

About one in three women will find themselves in an abusive situation and one in seven men will also find themselves in an abusive situation, Ms. Klahr noted.

Abuse takes many forms, she said while citing verbal, physical, sexual, mental examples from the Domestic Violence Resource Center that entail acts of jealousy; being possessive, controlling, hypersensitive, explosive, threats and violence.

“It’s a situation that is hidden. People don’t understand why they stay with that person, but they believe it gets better. They want things to change but it doesn’t. I think it is important to know that people have to take their own journey,” said Ms. Klahr, who has a background in social work.

“Nobody chooses or wants to live in a domestic violence shelter. People don’t want to leave their homes. They don’t want to leave their families. Sometimes it is their last alternative,” Ms. Klahr said.

She and Chrysalis staff help all people with domestic volatile circumstances. With its vision of “No abuse is OK,” individuals and families are assisted in efforts to rid themselves of toxic relationships plus gain confidence, resilience and hope, according to the Chrysalis website: noabuse.org.

Ms. Klahr has served Chrysalis and the community for nearly 30 years and works closely with staff and board of directors to aid domestic violence survivors in their quest for safety and support while repairing their lives.

According to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, an estimated 1.3 million women are victimized by intimate partners, each year.

Other statistics include:

  • Domestic violence results in more than 18.5 million health care visits yearly;
  • Most domestic violence cases go unreported to the police; and
  • Every 44 minutes in Arizona, one or more children witness domestic violence.

If any abuse is experienced, call the Chrysalis 24-hour crisis hotline at 602-944-4999.

Independent Newsmedia News Services Specialist Delarita Ford can be reached by e-mail at dford@newszap.com.

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