Meet Your Neighbors: 20-year-old gets early exposure to domestic violence on the job

Sarah Phillips learned how to reach out and help others – and learned about challenge and personal satisfaction.

Phillips, 20, a 2001 graduate of Kingman High School, works as a victim's advocate for the Sarah's House center.

During her senior year, Phillips became a member of the school's critical incident response team, which received training from the Mohave County Attorney's Office.

"There were a bunch of bomb threats that year and we'd go into the schools and help children realize what was going on and try to relieve their stress," Phillips said.

Phillips learned of the Victim's Witness Program and volunteered for it while a senior.

In late 2001, she became a full-time employee of the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, doing much of her work out of Sarah's House.

Sarah's House is a center that helps victims with such necessities as finding shelter, getting hot meals, transportation, victims' compensation and order of protection from abusers.

Phillips goes on 9-1-1 calls three or four times a week now, assisting victims in a variety of ways.

"They need a lot of emotional help," Phillips said.

"I meet them on the worst day of their lives.

"I go to court as an advocate to speak for them, letting the judge hear their concerns.

I attend initial appearances (for defendants) in Justice Court so I can go back to the victims and let them know more about the case and ease their minds."

The 9-1-1 calls she goes on include homicides, suicides, sexual assaults, child molestations, burglaries and drunken driving.

"Bonding with victims is the hardest part of my work," Phillips said.

"A lot of times they're older than me and it takes time for them to realize I'm there to help and that I'm not some little kid who doesn't know what she's doing."

In addition to visiting crime scenes, Phillips goes to homes where someone has died to console relatives and offer whatever help she can.

As one might expect, there's a good deal of stress in her work.

"I need an outlet (for the stress)," Phillips said.

"I'm a full-time college student taking one dance class per semester and that helps relieve stress.

We (advocates and volunteers) also talk among ourselves to further relieve stress."

Phillips received 40 hours of training with the Mohave County Attorney's Office to prepare her as a victim's advocate.

She attends monthly training sessions and out-of-town conferences.

The satisfaction she derives from her work comes when victims thanks her repeatedly, saying they don't know what they would have done without her, Phillips said.

"Some domestic violence victims are hurt over and over again," she said.

"They go back to the abuser because they don't know how to get away financially or otherwise.

"In some cases, I get them to realize they can live without that kind of relationship."

Rhonda Chastain, director of the Victim's Witness Program and Sarah's House, said more volunteers are needed as advocates.

Anyone interested may contact her at the Mohave County Attorney's Office at 753-0719.

Phillips was born in Highland, Pa., and grew up in Brookhaven, Pa.

Her family moved to Kingman when she was in the sixth grade in 1995.

She is taking criminal justice classes at Mohave Community College to gain a better understanding of legal statutes and how to better deal with crime victims.

She plans to go to Northern Arizona University-Mohave and get a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

However, she is uncertain whether she wants to go into criminal prosecution or another area of law enforcement.

In her spare time, Phillips enjoys walking, dancing, sewing and gardening.

Neighbors is a feature that appears Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.