A new website aims to make it easier for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other forms of harassment to get a protection order.
With the Arizona Protective Order Initiation and Notification Tool, or AZPOINT, victims can start the order of protection process using a computer, tablet or smartphone, Krisanne LoGalbo, a Superior Court spokeswoman said in a news release. The tool was launched Jan. 2
The site includes a “safety button” letting the user immediately shut down the page. The information the user provided before that shutdown, however, is saved in the portal for up to 90 days.
An applicant has 90 days to finalize the paperwork at any Arizona state court and appear before a judge, LoGalbo said.
With the new system, a protection order will be electronically transferred to be served against the alleged abuser. A 72-hour delay can be requested before the order is served.
The website has been in the works for two years and is the result of a 2018 state law requiring courts to directly transmit protection orders to serving parties.
The law also requires the Administrative Office of the Courts to hold records of all protection orders, said Wendy Million, a Tucson city magistrate for domestic violence court.
Million said the new website will allow people to start the protection order process without having to take time off work, or for some people without the hassle of finding child care to get to the courthouse.
Before this tool launched, a victim who obtained a protection order had to make arrangements for it to be served, usually through law enforcement, LoGalbo said.
The process sometimes resulted in delays, leaving many victims in a volatile situation.
The new system still has some risk for abuse victims, who sometimes don’t realize the dangers of serving a protection order, Million said.
The most dangerous time for victims seeking a protective order is when an abuser realizes an effort to separate has started, she said.
Million said her staff is conducting risk assessment for victims, to connect them with advocates and determine whether the court might need to request the 72-hour delay before serving an order or protection.
Allowing a victim to start filing a protection order and giving them 90 days to complete the process also allows victims to take time to weigh those dangers and be sure they want to file the order, Million said.
“It’s a constant back and forth with victims weighing their safety and their options,” she said.
Ed Mercurio-Sakwa, CEO of Emerge Center Against Domestic Violence, said it’s important for people to realize the complexities that come with domestic abuse and the decisions victims of abuse have to make.
“Everybody’s situation is different,” he said. “Just because we would do something or think we would do something if we were in that position is not the same as being that other person who’s actually in that position.”
When an abuse victim is making any decision, whether it’s to file an order of protection, file criminal charges or leave a relationship, that decision can cause a response from an abuser that puts the person taking action at higher risk, Mercurio-Sakwa said.
Anything that allows a victim flexibility to make a decision in a time frame that works for them is a good thing, Mercurio-Sakwa said, declining to comment specifically on the new website. Giving a victim the ability to change their mind is a good thing, he added.
“It has to be their decision because orders of protection are not bulletproof vests,” he said. “They’re not guarantees of safety. They are a potential step that can be very helpful to some people.”