KINGMAN - It's only fitting that Kingman Aid to Abused People is moving into larger offices and taking on a new program as it prepares to celebrate its 30th year in October of serving victims of domestic violence.
KAAP, which is taking over the Sarah's House building, will begin operating out of it this month. The move from its cramped headquarters at 2701 E. Andy Devine to 1770 Airway Ave. will increase its space from 600 to 6,000 square feet and will give KAAP the facilities to add a new program.
Sarah's House opened in 2000 as a child and family advocacy center, providing a safe place for forensic interviews and exams in child abuse cases and adult sexual assaults for Mohave County, except Lake Havasu City. It closed last summer after financial difficulties. KAAP will take over those duties.
Suzanne Clarke, executive director of KAAP, said the move creates a clearinghouse for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse crime throughout the area. KAAP will offer legal and personal advocacy, case management, forensic interviews, sexual assault exams and referrals to community-based resources.
The house and its prominent location will make KAAP's services more accessible and possibly open the door to additional funding for the organization, said Clarke. KAAP would like to add more staff and increase its outreach to the community. It provides an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, but it is housed at an undisclosed location.
Sarah's House was named for a 10-month-old girl who died in 1990 of complications from a head injury under the care of the mother's boyfriend. Authorities accused him of murder, while he insisted he left her strapped in a highchair with the tray off while he went in another room and found her unconscious on the ground when he returned.
It took seven years and $500,000 to construct the building. The county has helped fund salaries for support personnel, and it donated the land where the building is located. Because the facility provides services that are required by state law, the county is mandated to assist with finances.
Arizona statues require counties to pay for the cost of evidence collection in cases of sexual assault and child abuse, and Mohave County complied until 2010, providing Sarah's House with about $100,000 a year. Budget cuts that year wiped out the annual payment.
Instead of providing Sarah's House with adequate funding, the county the last four years paid $350 for every forensic examination, which cost $850. The county's portion went to the nurse who performed the examination. Sarah's House picked up the remaining $500.
During a visit, evidence of rape or abuse was collected in an exam room, where the victim and nurse were allowed complete privacy. More than 4,000 victims from throughout Mohave County have been examined and interviewed by law enforcement and Child Protective Services since Sarah's House opened.
In 2013, it facilitated examinations of 50 sexual assault victims and performed 70 forensic interviews of victims of either sexual assault or child abuse. Most of them were children. Sarah's House and another facility in Lake Havasu City are the only two agencies in the county that provide the service.
KAAP is desperately in need of more space, said Clarke, and this will give it five offices, two meeting rooms, an exam and interview room, and a kitchen. According to Clarke, requests and demands for shelter and outreach supportive service for victims have been on a gradual rise for the past five years.
In 2013, KAAP answered 623 crisis hotline calls, which ranked Kingman 10th of Arizona cities in crisis-call volume by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Kingman was the only rural community in the top 10 Arizona cities overall in crisis-call volume.