Article by Tom Scanlon of The Daily Courier
“I will put a bullet in your head.”
While football Sundays may never be the same, at least issues that are hardly exclusive to sports have been brought to light.
American culture has been shaken recently, as “fantasy football” has become “nightmare football.” The NFL, in recent years fueled by fantasy leagues to become by far the most popular sport in the country, is in the midst of a horrific season. There has been one instance after another of pro players alleged of shocking domestic violence crimes against women – and, in one particularly disturbing case, a 4-year-old. Yet hulking football players are hardly alone in abusing women. At New York City’s exclusive Columbia University, female students have been protesting sexual assaults; one female student has vowed to carry her mattress with her everywhere she goes on campus until her attacker is expelled.
And here in Yavapai County, where the closest most will get to a pro football player is a big screen TV, men threatening, punching and choking their female partners is literally an everyday occurrence.
“It’s not about geography, it’s not about education – this can happen anywhere,” said Robin Burke, CEO of Stepping Stones Agencies. “It’s like a cancer.”
The Stepping Stones shelter and hotlines have been busy this year, as domestic violence is increasingly commonplace. In less than 300 days so far this year, Prescott, Prescott Valley and unincorporated nearby areas have had more than 1,200 domestic violence calls. About a quarter of those have come in Prescott, which has had 278 DV calls so far this year. Prescott is on pace to bypass the 314 DV calls last year, and 284 in 2013. So, even in this quiet town filled with retirees, domestic violence is nearly an every-day occurrence. And many of these cases are shockingly brutal.
On the night of Sept. 13, a Montezuma Street resident allegedly “punched his live-in girlfriend in the face with a closed fist,” according to officer Michael Sischka’s report. The girlfriend was hit so hard that one of her teeth was damaged – yet she did not want to press charges. This, according to Prescott Police Chief Jerald Monahan, is not uncommon.
“Victims are already struggling,” Monahan said. “They’re living with the abuser, they’re afraid – and to report (the abuse) may put them in grave danger.”
According to Sischka’s report, the Montezuma Street man at first denied hitting his girlfriend, then later confessed to it. “He told me that he regretted hitting her,” the officer wrote, “and that he knew he’d done something wrong.”
Two nights earlier, police responded to a Granite Street disturbance call, and were told by a woman that her husband was physically abusing her. She said she was about to finalize her divorce – which Monahan says can be a particularly dangerous time for DV victims. According to the police report, a witness heard the man threaten his wife, saying:
“I will put a bullet in your head.” That’s the kind of report that makes Monahan relive his own experiences.
“My oldest daughter was married for 10 years,” the Prescott police chief said. “Her ex-husband called me one day and told me he was going to kill her.” This was when Monahan lived in Apache Junction, where he was the police chief. “He was well aware of what I did for a living. And he was arrested,” Monahan said. “His solution to a bill collector calling the home was to kill (my daughter). And to be honest, it scared me. If he really wanted to carry it out, he could have done it.”
When Prescott selected Monahan as their police chief last year, the city could hardly have found someone more dedicated and experienced – both personally and professionally – in the field of domestic violence. Since 2008, Monahan has been a consultant for the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative. He has been on the board of directors for two different women’s shelters, is vice chair of the Maricopa Association of Government’s Domestic Violence Council, and has been on the Governor’s Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women for a decade (serving as chair the last three years). Monahan is co-chair of the Yavapai County Domestic Violence Fatality Review team and a graduate of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Violence Against Women Leadership Institute.
The head of the Prescott Police Department is not just concerned with acts of domestic violence, but the potential that the offenders’ actions will escalate. The Granite Street man who allegedly abused his wife and threatened to shoot her? He was arrested again two nights later. His wife, who had an Order for Protection against him, said the man had returned to the property and broken windows.
According to Monahan, this kind of behavior is deeply troubling. “If the offender violates an order, that’s a red flag – there’s a danger of it becoming a murder-suicide,” he said. “It becomes a danger not only for the victim, but to officers and neighbors – because these (abusers) simply don’t care.”
A chilling case recently happened in the city Monahan left to come to Prescott. “Suspects often blame the victim. In Apache Junction, a man tried to strangle his girlfriend. She survived the first strangulation and he was charged and convicted of that crime, sending him to prison. “Upon his release he returned to her, and two weeks later – last weekend – he killed her by strangulation.”
Such stories, coupled with physical and mental abuse, can lead to victims shutting down. “It’s a real fear factor for these women,” Monahan said. “Research tells us there may be seven or eight incidents before they even think about reporting (domestic violence).”
When a victim is ready to press charges, the burden shifts to law enforcement, Monahan said. “We want to be fully supportive, ready with resources, ready with shelters – we want to be prepared to act.”
Is it possible that, as shocking as the Ray Rice video was and other allegations regarding football players, the publicity around domestic violence might have a benefit?
Burke with Stepping Stones hopes so. The publicity has shown, she says, that “domestic violence is indiscriminate. It’s leveled the playing field.”
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This assessment looks at nine common characteristics of potentially dangerous relationships. When two or more of these characteristics are seen together, there is an increased risk.
1. Does your partner have a history of assaultive behavior, threats of or attempted homicide or suicide? Has he/she discussed murder/suicide pacts with you?
2. Is your partner withdrawn or depressed? Are there particularly stressful life events going on – unemployment, poverty, death of a loved one, job change (either demotion or promotion), etc.?
3. Does he/she have a history of mental illness?
4. Does your partner have weapons or access to weapons?
5. Is your partner obsessed with you? Does he/she feel they cannot live without you, is socially isolated, and feels hopeless about the future without you?
6. Does your partner express rage about you leaving?
7. Is your partner involved with or addicted to drugs and/or alcohol?
8. Is your partner stalking you? Does he/she harass you? Does he/she refuse to leave you alone?
9. Is there an escalation in your partner’s threats and/or actual physical violence? Does your partner have access to you? Does he/she know where you are and how to get to you?