KINGMAN - Joseph Powell strongly identified with the message about domestic violence and sexual harassment during a presentation Monday to about 250 freshmen at Kingman High School.
The 15-year-old freshman didn't find it unusual that he understood the topics and the blunt advice given by the speakers. Although presenters generally target females more on both subjects because they are frequently the victims, the KHS speakers included an admonition to the male students in attendance.
"We want to encourage the guys in the audience to get help if they have a problem with anger or control issues," said Carol Hurley, who spoke about her sister, Holly Mack. "It's important, because you never know when you'll snap and do something terrible. We hope our experience shows that domestic violence is real and can change your life forever."
Hurley and her sister, Kelly Bradley, told the students about Mack's death on Aug. 2, 2009. Four months after she filed for divorce, the 26-year-old Mohave County Probation officer was fatally shot by her husband at a friend's house as she handed their 17-month-old daughter, Bailey, to police officers on the porch who responded to the scene. The husband then shot and killed himself.
The uninjured toddler was adopted by Hurley and is now 6 years old.
Powell, who learned about sexual harassment and domestic violence during a weeklong class as part of the Kingman Police Department's junior police academy, said the sister's advice hit home. Powell said he had anger and control issues after his best friend died in May 2012 in a dirt bike accident and it led to problems with his girlfriend.
"I got controlling with her and she didn't like that," said Powell. "When we broke up, it made me start looking into the problem and I got some assistance from a good friend, who talked me through it. I do think men should get help with anger and control issues, and I hope the other guys who were here today will get help if they need it."
October is domestic violence awareness month, and the event, now in its fourth year and sponsored by the KHS guidance office, was scheduled to increase students' knowledge and offer tips for avoiding it.
They were encouraged to wear purple for the day, and will hear statistics with their announcements each day this week.
During the event, students also learned about the state's domestic violence statistics. According to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims.
In Arizona, one or more children witness domestic violence every 44 seconds, and every third house has experienced it.
"We know that many of you kids go home and witness this on a regular basis," said Suzanne Clarke, executive director of Kingman Aid to Abused People. "I'm a survivor, too, and I know what it is to hide in a closet or behind the couch while it's going on. Domestic violence touches everyone and is preventable, and we all need to stand together and say 'no more' to it."
KHS resource officer Kerry Schanaman, who has been a Mohave County Sheriff's Office deputy and K-9 officer for 17 years, said a domestic violence conviction has serious repercussions. Perpetrators have a record for life, and are not allowed to serve in the military or work as police officers, nor can they use or own firearms.
"A domestic violence call is one of the worst calls to go on," said Schanaman. "And yet there are so many of them in Mohave County. It's a serious charge and it's a big problem in our community today. It affects a lot of people and costs a lot of money."
The audience also learned about the effects of sexual harassment at school, both from other students and from teachers. Tim Wernette, instruction specialist from the Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said a hostile school environment is uncomfortable and even scary.
"The Kingman Unified School District has made a promise to you and your parents that its schools will have safe environments," said Wernette. "Sexual harassment is illegal, and if you report it to someone at school and it keeps going on, your parents can sue the school district. That's how important this issue is to everyone."