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Senate passes legislation expanding definition of domestic violence

The state Senate passed two bills March 8 intended to curb abuse in family and intimate relationships by expanding the list of crimes that qualify as domestic violence.

S1087, which passed 20-8, would add homicide, manslaughter, animal cruelty and sexual assault to the list of crimes that when committed against a family member or intimate partner count as domestic violence.

S1086, which passed unanimously, would classify choking in domestic or intimate relationships as aggravated assault subject to a Class 4 felony, which carries a presumptive sentence of 2 1/2 years.

“Sometimes proscutors need to include some of these other violations as part of domestic violence to get recognized crimes against a victim on the books there, to be able to charge them,” said state Sen. Linda Gray, a Phoenix Republican and author of both bills.

Kendra Leiby, systems advocacy coordinator for the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is pushing for the changes, said expanding the list of crimes considered domestic violence would help ensure that abusers are dealt with as just that.

“Now we’re finding all too often perpetrators of domestic violence falling through the cracks, and that just feeds into the cycle of violence,” she said.

The cycle of violence involves not just the victim but his or her pet, and that is why two offenses involving animal cruelty or neglect were included in the bill, Leiby said.

About 70 percent of pet owners entering women’s shelters nationally reported their abuser had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims, according to a national survey in the Society and Animals Journal.

Meanwhile, experts consider choking, which can render the victim unconscious in 10 seconds, to be a very serious risk factor for escalation to homicide, Leiby said.

Nearly half of female homicide and attempted homicide victims were choked in the past year by their male partner, according to an article in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

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