TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The pandemic made it difficult for survivors of domestic violence to get help or to find safety. But there are advocates in the city courts and state legislature offering support.
Judge Wendy Million at the City’s Domestic Violence Court not only helps victims, but also offenders.
“A lot of these families stay together so we’re working on connecting offenders to more services than just domestic violence treatment,” Million said.
Million and her team often assign offenders to mental health and substance abuse classes. She then schedules review hearings to hold them accountable.
“It’s really exciting to see an impact," Million said. "Some of these guys have had felonies and they have made a decision, I had one guy just tell me ‘Judge, I’m tired of living like this I don’t want to keep doing this.’”
Her court also works with the Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse to give support to victims and their families.
“Potential injuries, they may need to look for another safe place to stay other than their home, they might have work, childcare issues, etc.,” said Ed Sakwa, CEO of Emerge.
But all of these services were affected by the pandemic.
“I felt like the system couldn’t respond in a way to keep victims safe because of the way we had to shut down,” Million said.
Million says she’s dealing with more cases now than ever before. The city’s domestic violence court has around 1400 open cases, with 2000 still awaiting trial.
“It’s impacted how quickly we bring cases to trial, how quickly we resolve cases, and the kind of contact emerge can have with the victims,” Million said.
Two bills in the state legislature could help. Both would extend court orders of protection for victims. These orders can prevent contact between the abuser and the victim - providing safety as the court case progresses.
“As they are making long term plans for what’s next in their relationship, their life, their safety, they don’t have the clock ticking in the same way about that order of protection running out,” Sakwa said.
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