Director studies violence to prevent it

By studying the lives and deaths of women killed as a result of domestic violence, a local shelter operator hopes to help save others from the same fate.

Kingman Aid to Abused People (KAAP), a shelter for victims trying to escape the treacherous cycle of domestic violence, has been open since 1985.

The shelter accommodates 25 women and children and there are no fees for services provided at the emergency facility.

A "client" can stay for up to 90 days, as long as the threat of violence at home continues.

"Domestic violence was responsible for 62 deaths in Arizona last year," said KAAP director Nancy Head.

"We are not looking to blame anyone, but to prevent it."

In August Head went through training at the first National Fatality Review Conference to become part of a Fatality Review Team in Mohave County.

The team will review cases in which someone was killed as a result of domestic violence, to see if something could have been done differently to save that person's life.

"We review everything connected to the case," she said.

"We get a whole picture of the situation leading up to the death - and the death - to determine if something could have been done to prevent it.

Then we go to the lawmakers and say, 'Here are the statistics to prove this thing didn't work."

The team will find out if the victim had an order of protection in place, if she called the police, if she tried to leave and other information pertinent to the case.

They also look at school and medical records, police reports and the death certificate.

"Maybe a woman couldn't get in a shelter and was killed, or maybe a father pulled kids out of school, even though there was a protection order in place." Head said.

"We need to know these things so we can prevent them from happening again."

"Some states have been doing fatality review for several years.

They have helped produce legislative changes that can fill the gaps that the victim falls through."

Head has started reviewing two domestic violence fatality cases - one in which a Golden Valley woman had called someone the night she died.

"The victim told the person on the phone she was afraid and needed to leave, but the person on the other end told her she would have to wait until the next day for a ride," Head said.

Another, more recent case involves a domestic violence perpetrator who committed suicide.

"The reviews are all confidential," she said.

"But they will be used to gain an understanding of what could have been done.

There is a legislative advocacy staff that works with legislators to change laws that need to be changed."

Brandi Brown, the Arizona Fatality Review Coordinator said the review teams also try to stay on top of situations that could get out of hand.

"In Chandler there has been situations were prosecutors are considering whether the victim initiated contact with the defendant when deciding to pursue a violation charge on a defendant who disregards an order of protection," Brown said.

Head said each case is different, but in most cases a victim should not be held responsible when a defendant disregards an order of protection.

"This is a definitely an example of something we would stay on top of," she said.

"Thank goodness that doesn't happen in Mohave County."

In addition to training for the Fatality Review Team, Head has also received 40 hours of domestic violence training through the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The training addresses issues such as how to how to spot and prevent domestic violence.

One tool is the Lethality Assessment to assess the most appropriate intervention or service to offer a victim.

The assessment looks at nine characteristics of abusers.

When these characteristics are seen together, there is a reason to believe that there is an increased risk to the victim.

It give advocates a baseline measure to work from in determining safety plans with battered women," Head said.

The first question is: Does he have a history of threats of, or attempted, homicide or suicide?

"Most domestic violence victims are women," Head explained.

"Most often men become domestic violence fatalities when they kill someone then commit suicide."

The KAAP shelter is open to women and children escaping a domestic violence situation.

Resources at the shelter include counseling, and caseworkers who help women get integrated back into society.

Rides to job interviews and medical appointments, transitional housing and a "store" with clothing, household items and furniture to help women set up housekeeping if they choose to leave their abuser, are also available.

KAAP also accepts vehicles for domestic violence victims with children.

"Can you imagine having kids and living in a shelter," Head said.

"If you need to find a job, how do you get your kids to daycare, get to work, pick up the kids after work, and get back to the shelter?" she asked.

Head said public transportation available in Kingman next year will help if the bus stops at places the women need to go, but the shelter still needs donated vehicles, as well as beds and baby clothes for the donation store.

For more information contact KAAP at 753-6222.