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Abuse Hits Home

25 Oct 2001
By Susie Steckner and Jodie Snyder

When Tempe police rescued a 26-year-old woman and her children from the violence in their home, another struggle quietly began.

In the fight against domestic violence, the focus often is on finding shelter.

But in this case, as in so many, the woman had a long list of other needs: A ride to the hospital, essentials like clothes and diapers, travel arrangements to a family member's home, counseling, help completing paperwork for a victim's aid program.

"There are many different kinds of things that come up, and often these women have no resources," financial or otherwise, said Judy Tapscott, Tempe's social services manager. "These emergency resources are important so she doesn't fall through the cracks."

But available resources, including shelter beds, counseling and child care, vary dramatically in the East Valley, The Arizona Republic has found.

Apache Junction, for instance, struggles with an all-volunteer group, the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse, which survives on donations and small grants.

Mesa is home to the Autumn House domestic violence shelter and the Center Against Family Violence, which offer a range of victim services.

Tempe provides a mobile crisis van, a city-run center for counseling and support groups, and help for getting an order of protection at a private location rather than a public courtroom. The city also owns a home where victims can live temporarily after moving out of a shelter.

Advocates say victims' needs are overwhelming in all parts of the Valley, no matter the geographic boundary or demographic.

"I think we have a stereotype that it's a certain race, certain level of income, certain level of education," said Loretta Hooper, a Phoenix police volunteer who assists victims.

"We do calls in Ahwatukee, Fountain Hills, northeast Phoenix," Hooper said. "It's all over."
Statistics from the East Valley offer a glimpse into the overwhelming problem of domestic violence.

During 2000, police in the East Valley, Phoenix and at Arizona State University responded to 63,717 domestic violence calls, up from 60,218 the previous year, according to the Governor's Office.

Thousands also turned to the area's two domestic violence shelters.

Autumn House and My Sister's Place in Chandler sheltered more than 600 women and children during fiscal year 2000-2001. They turned away nearly 4,250, mostly because of a lack of space. Together, they took nearly 4,880 crisis calls.

My Sister's Place also counseled 80 offenders and offered a violence prevention program to about 5,000 schoolchildren.

The shelters have 37 emergency beds between them. The Chandler shelter also has five houses where victims can stay for up to 18 months. Autumn House works with Save the Family to find such housing.

Advocates say that help is key.

"If there's nothing available for them outside of the shelter, then what do they do?" asked Barbara Thompson, program director for My Sister's Place.

Even more challenging, advocates say, is finding housing and services for victims with special needs.

DV STOP, a Mesa-based hotline that takes calls for shelter and other help, took 6,380 calls Valleywide during fiscal year 2000-2001. More than 400 callers were turned away because they needed help that shelters couldn't offer.

"Before, they were fleeing domestic violence and that's what we were dealing with exclusively," said Autumn House's program manager, Kathy DiNolfi. "Now, what we're seeing is an increase in mental illness and substance abuse and we're just not equipped to deal with that."

Thompson agreed, adding that almost every victim's situation is complicated.
"There are not easy answers."

Copyright 2001, Used with permission from The Arizona Republic.

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