By Councilwoman Thelda Williams
Purple is the international awareness color for domestic violence. Since 2013, during the month of October, Phoenix and 50 community partners shine a light on domestic violence and bring awareness to the issue. The purple lights also represent a beacon of hope to current victims, letting them know that help is available.
Phoenix City Hall, Phoenix Convention Center, the State Capitol and other locations around Arizona will be lit in purple throughout October. Purple Thursday is on Oct. 22 this year; a national day of action encouraging residents to wear purple and raise awareness about domestic violence.
In a normal year, the statistics are deeply concerning:
• 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime
• 85% of domestic violence victims are women
• In Arizona, every 44 minutes one or more children witness domestic violence
• Between 18% and 48% of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their pet’s safety
• Between 49% and 71% of domestic violence victims reported their pets had been threatened, harmed or killed by their partner
Everything that was difficult before COVID-19 is greatly magnified during this pandemic. In recent weeks, domestic violence calls have been sharply on the rise. The Phoenix Police Department did a four-month comparison from February to May 2019 versus 2020 and what they found were alarming increases related to domestic violence:
• Dispatched Calls: 3.9% to 11.5%
• Incident Reports: 14% to 31.5%
• Arrests: -4.9% to 27%
• Aggravated Assault: -1% to 34.8%
• Threatening and Intimidation: 10.4% to 63.6%
• Criminal Damage: 6.3% to 20.7%
These increases can be attributed to the impact of COVID-19. During the four-month span, this was when a stay-at-home order went into effect and people were essentially shut in, schools closed abruptly, childcare arrangements changed, people lost jobs, wages were reduced, housing and food insecurities increased, and social amenities were taken away.
To mitigate the problem, in addition to CARES Act funding programs, the City of Phoenix developed a major awareness campaign and partnered with radio, TV and billboards to raise awareness about domestic violence. In addition, the city took steps to expand access to the Court. My colleagues and I approved funding to dedicate 10-15 computers in safe locations around the city that are connected directly to the Court system with a video link, allowing victims to file an order of protection without a requirement to travel downtown to Court.
We hope to be able to continue to raise awareness, provide support to victims and to expand the computer program to help more victims. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. Help is available. Call anytime 24/7 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit phoenix.gov/domesticviolence. If you have any questions, call my office at 602-262-7444.
Councilwoman Williams serves as the District 1 representative, which encompasses north west Phoenix from Northern Avenue to New River Road and the Interstate 17 to 67th Avenue.