Question: I was recently in a relationship with a guy who was verbally and emotionally abusive. We were living together for about 3 months and he was always yelling at me and I was getting very scared. After he held me inside our apartment and refused to let me leave I finally got out and moved out. I tried to keep things civil. He moved to out of state but he says he will come back. He calls the house I am staying at several times a day. He breaks into my emails and talks to my friends. He threatens me and he gets very angry at times and calls me and says he will do stuff to me and he will do stuff to my friends . I was wondering what I could do. I am very stressed out and scared and I feel like it is getting worse and I need a solution. I looked up about an order of protection but Im not sure where to go and how to do it. Id like to stop him from contacting me, my family, and my friends. I feel that he may be emotionally unstable and have issues that could turn to violence. He says he is coming back to Arizona and I just want to protect myself, my family, and my friends.
You have several solutions. First, concerning your e-mail, you should close your current account and open a new one - complete with a password that he would not think of or probably guess at. If you cannot afford an account like Cox or Qwest, opt for a free account through Hotmail or Yahoo. You don't really explain how he has managed to "break" into your e-mail. But unless he possesses breathtaking computer hacking skills (or unless you or a friend carelessly divulged your e-mail address or password to him), you should be able to keep him away from your Inbox.
Second, assuming you have made it clear that his communications are unwelcome, you should report his telephonic harassment and threats to the police as each contact occurs. Save all tape recordings of his calls (and copy them for your own benefit, since the police will probably seize the original recordings as evidence). Save and copy all threatening or harassing e-mails. Don't wait around for 2-3 weeks and then call the authorities! It will make you look silly if you do, and - fair or not - the police will not take you as seriously if you delay a report for that long. Here are some criminal statutes that may apply to your situation (see immediately below). Print them, and ask the responding police officer about each of them when s/he arrives at your house for the investigation:
- Threats & Intimidation -> A.R.S § 13-1202
- Disorderly Conduct -> A.R.S § 13-2904
- Telephone Harassment -> A.R.S § 13-2916
- Harassment -> A.R.S § 13-2921
- Aggravated Harassment -> A.R.S § 13-2921.01
- Stalking -> A.R.S § 13-2923
Each of these crimes contains "elements" - all of which must be established in order for the police to conduct an arrest. You should speak to a criminal attorney (or prosecutor) about each of these laws to see if any of them apply to your situation. It sure sounds like many of them do. Just as importantly, don't let the police put you off with the excuse that they cannot help you because the calls originate from "outside of their jurisdiction." That is a lot of nonsense! Criminal jurisdictional rules expressly allow authorities to take action against crimes like stalking and telephone harassment either in the location where the calls were placed or the location where they were received. If the police refuse to help, call the city prosecutor's office (or county attorney's office, if applicable) and insist on speaking with the victim's rights unit. If they won't help, ask for the supervising attorney responsible for charging decisions.
Next, yes, you should strongly consider applying for a domestic violence protective order. (Because you cohabitated with this man, you meet the initial eligibility requirements.) You should be able to walk into any Arizona superior, municipal or justice court and apply for such an order. Do yourself a favor, though: Don't wait until lunch hour or the last hour of the business day if you can help it! The lines are just awful at those times. Try to go in the early morning or early afternoon (2:00-3:00 p.m.) when most people are at work. Each court building has its own procedure for these orders, so I can't give you tremendous detail here. But signs are usually clearly posted, and there are typically court personnel who know exactly where to send you if you get lost. You're hardly the first person to walk into the courthouse looking for a protective order!
Finally, be ready to write down (and explain out loud to a judge) exactly what this man has done to you. Be specific!!! Have a chronology already outlined (i.e. dates, times, and verbatim quotations of what the offender said on each occasion) and ready to share with the court. Don't rely on your memory (you'll be too nervous at the time), and don't stumble into the courtroom with a vague, jarring, emotional rant that leaves the judge with more questions than answers. S/he may feel sorry for you (and rightfully so!), but s/he still needs hard facts to justify an order and - if necessary - impose a firearm ban against your former partner. If you give her those facts, you'll be fine. Good luck!
March 07, 2007