Spouse Abuse Soars, Shelter Funds Dwindle

Time Out provided 111,000 nights of shelter last year

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About four times a week, someone calls the Payson police to break up a family fight.

By the end of 2008, police had logged 186 cases — nearly twice as many as in 2007.

Unfortunately, the only domestic violence shelter in Rim Country has suffered a $30,000 cut in state aid. The 11 full-time and seven part-time workers will take two- or three-week, unpaid furloughs to make up the loss between now and June 1.

“We’ve been making cuts like crazy,” said Gerry Bailey, executive director of the Time Out shelter.

The shelter has a budget of about $876,000, including $263,000 from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

The state imposed the $30,000 cut with just three months left in the fiscal year.

The shelter has 28 emergency beds for women and children, plus additional, long-term transitional housing for 23. Last year, Time Out offered more than 111,000 nights of emergency shelter and handled 1,736 calls.

The shelter offers other counseling and social support programs — and 3,000 hours of community education programs. The shelter’s 70 volunteers last year donated 16,000 hours.

Now the dwindling state support and rising levels of domestic violence will force the shelter to rely more heavily on those volunteers and its fund-raising, including its thrift store.

The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence says cases of domestic violence often rise during a recession. The loss of jobs and financial issues can make abusers lash out in frustration. Perhaps more important, women and children often have a much harder time escaping for lack of cash and jobs.

As a result, studies suggest both the incidence and severity of such cases rises in a downturn, as women with few options to get free, stay and take it longer than they would have.

The coalition has lobbied hard against the impending cuts, which which could total about $2 million statewide.

“We are disappointed that these cuts will result in Arizona’s domestic violence shelter system going backwards” after a long struggle to shelter at least half of the people calling for help, said Allie Bones, the coalition’s director.

The coalition also this week reported the number of people dying as a result of domestic violence has risen steadily between 2005 and 2008.

In that period, domestic-violence-related incidents claimed 458 lives in Arizona, including 128 in 2008.

Perhaps surprisingly, men accounted for 59 percent of the deaths in domestic violence incidents.

Among those male victims, only 10 percent were killed by their spouse or girlfriend. The rest were killed by police, other family members or killed themselves in the course of the confrontation.

However, 70 percent of the women killed in domestic violence incidents died at the hands of their spouse or boyfriend.

The bulk of the deaths involved guns. In fact, having a gun in the house increased the chance a woman would be killed by her partner by 600 percent, according to a national study by Johns Hopkins University Professor Dr. Jacqueline Campbell.

The survey of Arizona deaths found that many of the men who killed their spouses using a gun already had an order of protection against them or previous convictions for violent offenses. The law bans gun ownership by people in either of those categories.

“There is clearly a gap in the system that is allowing abusers to obtain or maintain weapons,” the coalition report concluded.

The report also noted a significant increase in the number of natural or adoptive children who killed their parents — rising to 11.

None of the Payson cases in 2008 involved murders, since police reported no homicides for the whole year.

However, the 85-percent jump in reports of domestic violence in Payson in 2008 sounded alarm bells — and created new dangers for police. Payson police have a policy in favor of making an arrest any time an officer finds evidence of an assault, even if the victim appears unwilling to press charges. More officers are killed responding to domestic violence cases than any other type of call.

Bailey, the Time Out director, said the local shelter almost never has to turn away women or children in an emergency, in sharp contrast to shelters in the Valley that generally have space for only about half of the people seeking shelter.

She vowed to keep the shelter’s doors open, no matter how deep the state’s cuts.

“What I want to be sure to get across is that we’re still able to serve women and children in a safe place — we’re not decreasing our services. We’ve been faced with challenges from the very beginning — we always problem solve.”

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