It’s the most common violent crime.
It’s the most dangerous call for police.
And it has baffled the court system.
Welcome to the tragic, confusing, contradictory world of domestic violence — and the uneven effort of the courts and police to respond to a social scourge.
A statewide study found Gila County has a domestic violence arrest rate almost twice the statewide average, according to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC), which issued its most recent summary in 2013.
Counties statewide have declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in hopes of spurring public awareness.
The Time Out domestic violence shelter plans a march in October to boost awareness. The only still-functioning shelter in the region is also in the midst of a fundraising campaign to rehabilitate the shelter.
The statewide study found rates of domestic violence in Gila County held relatively steady between 2001 and 2010, but remained far above the statewide average.
National statistics show some 21 percent of female high school students, 43 percent of women in college and one in three women in their lifetime suffer physical or sexual abuse from a spouse or dating partner, according to national statistics.
Often, bystanders blame the victim.
Moreover, even if police arrest the alleged abuser — the conviction rate remains shockingly low. Judges dismiss some 38 percent of cases, according to one statewide study.
In Gila County, the conviction rate stands at about 22 percent — just above the statewide average, according to the most recent ACJC summary.
A recent Navajo County resolution declaring October domestic violence month cited sobering statistics, in a county that recently lost its only domestic violence shelter for women:
• Every day domestic violence hotlines nationally receive 20,000 calls.
• Some 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve domestic violence.
• One in 15 children will suffer or witness domestic violence.
• Women account for 76 percent of the victims of domestic violence.
• Some 21 percent of female high school students and 13 percent of male high school students report being physically or sexual abused by a dating partner.
• Some 43 percent of college women report sexual or physical abuse by a dating partner.
• Some 50 percent of youth who suffer violence and rape also report a suicide attempt.A study by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission found Gila County’s arrest rate was the highest in the region — 744 per 100,000 — nearly twice the statewide average. The county’s rate actually declined slightly from the 760 reported in 2000.
The arrest rate doesn’t necessarily reflect the incidence of domestic violence in a given county. Domestic violence arrest policies vary widely among different cities and counties. In some departments, officers are urged to arrest both parties even if there’s no clear-cut evidence of violence when they arrive. In other departments, officers are trained to make an arrest only if there’s visible signs of violence, like bruising, blood, broken bones or a smashed up room.
Police statewide made 42,000 arrests in 2010 for domestic violence, according to the 2013 Arizona Criminal Justice Report. The number of arrests rose 18 percent between 2001 and 2010, although the rate per 100,000 residents dropped slightly.
Arrests for aggravated domestic violence doubled. If you control for the growth in population, the number of the most serious domestic violence cases rose 82 percent. The aggravated domestic violence arrest rate rose from 5 per 100,000 to 9 per 100,000 — a total of nearly 6,000.
In Gila County, the arrest rate for domestic violence stood at 26 per 100,000 — almost three times the state average.
Domestic violence accounts for a staggering 10 to 13 percent of all arrests, depending on the year and county.
The rising arrest rate in most areas could reflect a greater willingness on the part of police to intervene when faced with domestic violence.
On the other hand, it could reflect a rise in the incidence of domestic violence.
And that could reflect the relatively low rate of conviction — or even prosecutions — when police file charges.
Generally, people arrested for domestic violence don’t even go to court until their third arrest. Even then, most either convince judges to dismiss the charges or wind up on probation.
Up to 38 percent of domestic violence charges are ultimately dismissed by the court. Only about one-third of those cases resulted in conviction — although the statewide study couldn’t determine the outcome of about 24 percent of all those cases. In some counties and years, the conviction rate dropped as low as 16 percent.
About 90 percent of those arrested for domestic violence were male.
Domestic Violence Charge outcomes (2010)
• All convictions: 128 cases
• Convictions: 22 percent
• Misdemeanor convictions: 25 percent
• Felony convictions: 8 percent
• Missing dispositions: 27 percent
• All convictions: 95,894 cases
• Convictions: 19 percent
• Misdemeanor convictions: 20 percent
• Felony convictions: 16 percent
• Missing dispositions: 36 percent
• On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States — some 10 million annually.
• 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical or sexual violence and stalking.
• 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
• 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner.
• 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point they feared they would be harmed or killed.
• On a typical day, 20,000 people call domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
• The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.
• Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime.
• 19 percent of domestic violence involves a weapon.
• Domestic victimization is linked to depression and suicide.
• Only 34 percent of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.
• 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped.
• Almost half of female (46.7 percent) and male (44.9 percent) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance or intimate partner.
• A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20 percent of victims were family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.
• 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner.
Children & Domestic Violence
• 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent witness this violence.
• Domestic violence victims lose 8 million days of work annually.
• Domestic violence costs exceed $8.3 billion per year.
• Between 21-60 percent of victims lose their jobs due to the abuse.
• Between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were murdered in their workplace by their abuser, 78 percent of women killed in the workplace during this timeframe.
Domestic Violence in Arizona
In Arizona, first- and second-time domestic violence offenders are not charged with domestic violence; only the third incident is charged as domestic violence. First and second offenders are charged with offenses that then have “domestic violence flags” attached.
• In Arizona in 2010, law enforcement made 25,376 domestic violence-flagged arrests, an increase of 17.8 percent over arrests in 2001. Many other incidents were not reported to police or did not end in arrests.
• Between 2001 and 2010, when controlling for population, arrests for domestic violence aggravated assault increased 82 percent.
• The most common sentence for a perpetrator convicted of aggravated domestic violence (third offense) was probation.
• There were 109 domestic violence-related deaths in Arizona in 2014.
• In 2012, Arizona ranked 8th in the nation in women murdered per capita.
• Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime.
• The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500 percent.