Jami Day was a prideful 19-year-old girl moving in with her new fiancé. Two weeks into the new living arrangement, they got into an argument. It was the first time that Day had ever seen him that angry, and they had been dating for five or six months.
“It kind of scared me so I told him I was going to go to my parent’s house until he calmed down, and he actually grabbed me and threw me across the room and said I wasn’t going anywhere,” she said.
Day didn’t want to tell her parents about the violence so when she asked her mother if she could move back home, her mother said no.
“I didn’t feel like I could go home,” she said. “I had just quit my job and I felt stuck, so I stayed.”
Day, who is now 40, has finally filed for divorce after a 20-year abusive marriage.
Stories like hers are becoming rare in Arizona because the domestic violence rates have been going down, according to Allie Bones, 37, the CEO of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
This result differs from the national domestic violence rates, which according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, have not had any statistically significant changes from 2012 to 2013.
Rates have evened out following a 63 percent decrease from 1994 to 2012, with most of the decline occurring from 1994 to 2002, according to a different report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Domestic Violence can take the form of physical or sexual violence, verbal, financial or psychological abuse and other controlling behaviors.
Some of the people who are more likely to be affected by domestic violence, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are women, sexual minorities, ethnic minorities and people with lower incomes.
Women are more likely to be victims, but men can be victims, too. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, compared to one in seven men, according to Bones.
American Indian and Alaskan Native women, whose ethnicity makes up 5.3 percent of Arizona’s population according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are more likely than anyone else to be victims of domestic violence. “They’re about three times more likely, so if there’s an ethnic group that’s at a greater risk, it’s Native American women,” said Bones.
Domestic abuse among American Indians was traditionally very rare, according to Mary Jo Tippeconnic Fox, an associate research professor in the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Arizona.
“If it occurred, there were systems in place to combat it so when you look at tribal societies, there was a real balance between the gender roles and not one was more important than the other,” Fox said. “These things affected Native women because it changed their roles and their status within tribal groups.”
The increase in violence against American Indian women has a lot to do with contact and colonization, according to Fox. Part of it is due to the promoting of patriarchal thought and ideology, and also a result of U.S. government relationships and policies toward American Indians, Fox said.
“After contact, non-Native people were coming in and imposing their cultural views,” she said. “You have this erosion of traditional society, so these kinds of issues came about.”
Statistics show that Non-Native men are the main perpetrators of domestic abuse against American Indian women, according to a Policy Insights Brief by the National Congress of American Indians and this makes it more difficult for tribes to prosecute the crimes.
The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act provided more protection for Native women because it allowed prosecution of non-Natives who committed acts of domestic violence against Native women on tribal land.
Arizona, among other states, has domestic violence fatality review teams who do in-depth analyses of domestic violence related homicides that are gathered by the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
They do this to figure out what could have been done to prevent each specific death, said Bones.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence conducts a one-day survey of everyone seeking services related to domestic violence in the United States as well as specifically by state.
On Sept. 17, 2013 there were 1,796 victims served in Arizona, according to the survey results. There were also 187 people who could not be helped, and as a result those victims may have returned to their abuser, become homeless, or ended up living in their cars.
Another significant issue is the lack of access to services for people living in rural areas, which are common in Arizona, said Bones. The lack of transportation, jobs in the vicinity and housing, or the distance to shelters or court all make it difficult for victims to leave an abuser.
Many undocumented residents of Arizona also find it difficult to leave their abusers because they fear legal consequences if they try to seek help, said Bones. However, there are some protections for people who are undocumented that need to seek help or shelter, she said.
Domestic violence happens for a number of reasons, according to Connie J. A. Beck, 56, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona.
One theory is that domestic violence is related to prior trauma in either the victim or the perpetrator’s past. This trauma can range from living in a family with domestic violence between parents, being in a former relationship, which included domestic violence, living in a violent neighborhood, being abused as a child, and being involved with child protective services, said Beck.
Another theory, which relates specifically to why men are violent toward women, is that we live in a patriarchal society that is run by men who are given special privileges and power over women and children, according to Beck.
Specific personality factors also play into abuse, Beck said. People who are narcissistic, dependent and fear rejection or abandonment from a significant other will sometimes get desperate. As a result they can become violent and controlling.
People who live with an abuser learn what to say and what not to say in order to avoid an argument, said Day. Her husband would fight over the smallest things including her tone of voice, cheese, and ketchup.
“They were very intense reactions to small things,” she said.
The argument, which eventually drove Day to call the police, was about her buying the wrong kind of cheese. The fight went on all day, she said, but escalated quickly at home when her husband threatened suicide – which he often did – and for the first time, she didn’t stop him and he held a knife to her throat.
Day and her two daughters are all in counseling today.
According to Beck, children who are involved in families where domestic abuse is present can lose the opportunity to develop normally, and may have difficulty developing relationships and trusting others; however, there are many individual differences in how children interpret family violence, so there is no predetermined path for these children in adulthood.
Day was very suicidal during her marriage, she said, because death seemed less painful than having to wake up to her abusive husband every day and the only thing that kept her alive was the fear of leaving her daughters with him.
Her husband is trying to gain custody of her daughters through the divorce, so she is trying to raise money for a divorce lawyer through the website GoFundMe.
“I’m tired of fighting and of being a victim and just taking it,” she said. “I’m going to fight. It’s hard and it’s scary, but I’ll do it.”
Reham Alawadhi/Arizona Sonora News Service