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Domestic violence a factor in homelessness

January 3, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — Homelessness can come from many different circumstances and one of those can be domestic violence.

“Domestic violence can come in a multiple of forms,” said Cheryl DeBatt, WestCare Arizona area director. “I can sit here and yell at someone and that is domestic violence, mental abuse is domestic violence, hitting someone is domestic, kicking someone out is domestic violence and many more.”

DeBatt said that victims of domestic violence, referred to in abbreviated form as “DV,” and homelessness go hand in hand.

“We see a lot of people that are abandoned at the casinos,” said DeBatt. “Spouses will come from out of state and get into a fight which results in the husband leaving the mom and their children behind.”

“Most of the time DV victims have never been displaced and this is a new feeling for them,” said Stephanie Bethards, system advocate for the Tri-state.

DeBatt said when that happens they work with different resources to get victims back to their family.

“We do see and help the typical DV victim that gets displaced because someone was being violent,” said Bethards. “We had one situation where the aunt got very violent and the person was displaced because of that.”

“The advocate that we have responds to DV calls in the Tri-state area and she helps with homeless, domestic violence and anyone in need with a 24/7 phone,” said DeBatt. The number to reach Bethards is 928-201-5136.

According to DeBatt, WestCare Arizona helps about 720 DV victims throughout the year.

“Of those 720 people, about 300 people are in the shelter,” said DeBatt. “When Stephanie turns in her numbers of how many she’s helped she is always anywhere from 20 to 25 DV victims a week. It’s important to remember that those numbers are unduplicated which means that they aren’t the same person coming back for help.”

“So far (in 2018), I have relocated about 87 DV victims,” said Bethards.

Bethards said that between Laughlin and Bullhead City she responds to an average of 12 to 15 high-risk DV victims calls per week.

“The calls from high-risk DV victims are those victims who are feeling for their lives or their abuser still hasn’t been caught,” said Bethards. “When we deal with those situations we have protocols that we follow in order to make sure that the victim(s) are safe.”

DeBatt stated that during the holidays of Christmas and New Year, the DV call rates are higher all across the country.

“Stress and money is the big reason why DV rates increase during this year,” said DeBatt. “During this time children are out of school and they are eating at least three times a day, they have presents to buy and sometimes they spend all their money on presents and have no food. Other times it’s just because it’s the holidays and they get back together with their significant other. When the holidays are over everything starts all over again.”

“On New Year’s night (2018) I got seven calls,” said Bethards. “In the week after New Year’s, I had 37 DV calls in the span of seven days. In January it doesn’t go down either because people are recovering from all the spending that they did. During tax season I had 27 DV calls in less than a week.”

DeBatt said that the other time when DV calls spike is in March and April when people are getting their tax returns.

When it comes to the split between men and women, Bethards said that out of those 720 they see throughout the year about 10 percent have been men.

“A lot of these DV victims are very vulnerable and it’s very hard for women and children to come forward and rebuild their lives. For men, it’s even harder for them to come forward,” said DeBatt. “Men are not as apt to report domestic violence as women are simply because you got the machoism happening in there. Men do it as a last resort when they don’t have any other option to help their family that is in need. We are seeing more men come forward than we have in the past and that is very good.”

“I have helped single fathers who have been displaced because of the mother,” said Bethards.

DeBatt said that DV rates are higher in rural areas than more populated areas.

“We think that happens because support services are not close by and they have to travel to them,” said DeBatt. “People are more apt to put up with what they put up with it because it’s easier for them to stay in that situation. Statistically speaking, it takes a woman up to nine times of leaving before they decide to leave for good.”

Bethards said that sometimes all a DV victim needs is guidance and to be shown what kind of help is out there.

“When a DV victim can’t relocate or they don’t want to relocate, then they will go to the shelter,” said Bethards. “Within three or four months they’ll have day-care assistance, we’ll help them find work, find them a place to live they can afford and help them find good schools for their children and a lot more. That way when they leave the shelter they are stable and they are comfortable and can start moving forward.”

DeBatt said that a big part of what they do is following up with victims.

“We do the follow-up to make sure that they aren’t struggling,” said DeBatt. “For example, if Mom spends all her money on rent and didn’t have any to buy food, we can help them by getting them a box of food.”

“I also want to say that our sheriff’s department and the Bullhead City Police Department are absolutely wonderful to work with when it comes to dealing with DV victims,” said DeBatt. “When it’s a DV call, they’re all over it by responding quickly, which is key.”

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