By Colleen Sparks
The Phoenix Police Department and non-profit organizations are scrambling to help victims of abusive relationships after a significant increase in violent crime this year.
There were 24 homicides linked to domestic violence during the first six months of this year in Phoenix, a jump from 10 homicides linked to domestic violence the first half of 2019, according to the Phoenix Police Department. Police also reported domestic violence-related deaths increased 180-percent from January through Aug. 3 of this year compared to that same time period last year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to stay home more often, which can be dangerous for anyone in a violent relationship, experts say. Victims can find it even more challenging to seek help and find a way to leave an abusive relationship when their offender is frequently home tracking their movements.
“There is a decrease in individuals seeking shelter,” said Jenna Panas, CEO of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. “We are concerned about that, of course, because what we’re also seeing in the community is increased violence. When the assault does happen it is significant, as opposed to minor.”
The non-profit Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence provides technical assistance and training to organizations that directly help domestic violence victims. It also operates a statewide hotline victims can call, 602-279-2980 Mondays through Fridays. Victims also can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for help at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233.) Anyone who cannot speak safely can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.
On average the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence receives 120 calls a month but in April of this year it received 201 calls and in May it took 178 calls. Advocates can help domestic violence victims find shelters, mental health services, legal assistance and other resources.
Phoenix Police Sgt. Maggie Cox said if someone is in an emergency situation, that victim should call 9-1-1. If someone wants to report something suspicious or a potential crime that is not an emergency, they can call the non-emergency police line at 602-262-6151.
“We are here for them,” Cox said. “We have resources for them and we want them to call, check on your neighbors.”
She said the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center also is a good resource as it helps victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as other violent crimes. It is located at 2120 N. Central Ave. To learn more, visit phoenix.gov/humanservices/programs/emergency/domestic.
Jewish Family & Children’s Service provides many services and support to help domestic violence survivors and their children.
It operates a Shelter Without Walls program that targets people in an abusive relationship that need help leaving safely, as well as those who are getting ready to leave a shelter and those who have left the relationship but still need help.
Advocates meet domestic violence victims wherever it is safe for them, to help them find shelters and affordable housing and to offer information about finding legal representation for court procedures, said Linda Scott, vice president of Child & Family Solutions for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. The organization provides support groups and one-on-one counseling and assistance with applying for a scholarship for education.
People seeking shelter can call the Shelter Line in Maricopa County at 480-890-3039.
Scott said it is often difficult for people to leave their abuser because their partner has threatened to hurt them or their children or pets if they leave. Often victims have not been able to work or save money because of their abuser.
To learn more, visit jfcsaz.org.
Catholic Charities also helps domestic violence victims. It operates a shelter and provides case management to help victims plan how to become independent including finding a safe apartment, shelter or house, as well as offers support groups for victims. The organization also assists them with developing resumés, said Anna Joyave, Catholic Charities victim advocate. Catholic Charities helps those leaving abusive relationships file protective orders.
Its advocates travel anywhere in Maricopa County.
“What I do want them to know is that they have value, they have worth and they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness,” Joyave said.
If you need immediate help, you can call Catholic Charities’ 24-hour hotline at 480-821-1024, or visit catholiccharitiesaz.org.
Chrysalis is a local organization that provides shelter, counseling, community education, help finding transitional housing and other services for domestic violence victims. It also runs an offender treatment program.
Abuse can take on many forms, including physical, emotional, economic and sexual offenses, as well as threats, intimidation, isolation and other behaviors used to maintain fear, intimidation and power.
“One of the most dangerous times for somebody is when they do actually leave a situation so you do want to plan for that,” said Patricia Klahr, CEO and president of Chrysalis.
To obtain help 24-hours a day, seven days a week from Chrysalis, call 602-944-4999 or email email@example.com. For more information, visit noabuse.org.
Fresh Start Women’s Foundation also helps domestic violence survivors.
The organization’s mission is “about educating and empowering women to reach self-sufficiency,” said Meg Sneed, director of Quality and Data Services for Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. It has certified legal document preparers help women prepare for divorce, custody issues and other legal procedures and can connect women with shelters. The organization provides support groups, as well as offers workshops and offers a scholarship to help women return to school.
“The first step that we can all take is just to love ourselves and just do what is best for ourselves,” Sneed said.
To contact Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, call 602-252-8494 or visit freshstartwomen.org.