Terror in the home: Local resources available to help victims of domestic abuse

Once drunk, there was no telling where the evening would go for young mother and wife, Martha Kuhn, when alcohol was the vehicle in which her husband chose to navigate through his personal sorrow.

Yelling, grabbing, hitting — it was all fair game to the abusive alcoholic.

Struggling to keep herself between her husband and her son’s bedroom door, Ms. Kuhn fought back so that her husband couldn’t get into the young boy’s room. His motive that evening was to take the sleeping child and put him into the car and drive away.

The young boy, on the other side of the door, watched as his dad unleashed his anger onto his mom.

It wouldn’t be until years later that Ms. Kuhn learned her son watched from his bed as she took the brunt of the beating.

Ms. Kuhn was married for more than two decades before leaving her husband. She says she was unaware of the help available for victims such as herself.

In a world where the news is often peppered with the latest celebrity and athlete domestic violence stories, the problem is just as real at home as it is in the Hollywood hills.

Although the local stories aren’t reported on as heavily, domestic violence within the community is an issue, and one that victims are often forced to conceal from friends and family.

According to a local records search, over the past five years there were 50 domestic-violence arrests within the Town of Paradise Valley, and 80 in Scottsdale.

The records date back to Jan. 1 2010. In the Town of Paradise Valley, where according to the 2010 Census the population was 12,280, yearly statistics break down as follows:

  • 2010: 8 men, 1 woman arrested;
  • 2011: 9 men 1 woman;
  • 2012: 7 men 2 women;
  • 2013: 5 men 3 women;
  • 2014: 4 men 1 women;
  • 2015: 7 men 2 women.

The city of Scottsdale, which had a population of 217,365 in 2010, reported 80 arrests for felony aggravated domestic violence during that same time period.

There were only nine females arrested and 71 males. However, other domestic violence-related charges — such as a misdemeanor for fighting or intentional or reckless injury — show that during the same time, there were 565 charges for females and 1,225 charges for males.

The information was gathered as part of a public records request made by the Scottsdale Independent.

“The number of arrests for domestic violence-related offenses has remained pretty consistent over the past six years with a low number reported in 2014 of five, and a high in 2011 of 10,” said Paradise Valley Lt. Michael Horn in an e-mailed response to questions.

According to Patricia Klahr, president and CEO of Chrysalis Shelter in north Phoenix, Arizona consistently ranks among the highest in the nation when it comes to studies done nationally on the prevalence of domestic violence.

“Arizona ranks eighth in the rate of females murdered by males in single-victim/single-offender incidents in 2012,” said Ms. Klahr in an e-mailed response to questions.

Don’t hide

Phoenix resident Martha Kuhn, 61, was married for 23 years before leaving her alcoholic husband who would emotionally and verbally abuse her and the children.

Ms. Kuhn and her husband met when she was just a girl — before the age of 13. Her family was grieving the loss of her father and he was her brother’s friend.

“I got married when I was barely 18, like 18 and three weeks old,” said Ms. Kuhn. “We started having kids right away.”

Ms. Kuhn and her husband had five children together, the first while in high school whom they put up for adoption, and four more after they were married.

“He would drink and would just get very violent verbally; would punch the wall, get in my face, break my things,” recalled Ms. Kuhn. “He would like grab my arms and shake me.”

Because the fits occurred in the evening while her ex-husband was drinking, the children would often be asleep.

“I found out years later, my son, the oldest, told me that one of the times (my husbad) really beat me up, I thought the kids were sleeping (but) my kid told me he saw it,” said Ms. Kuhn.

Throughout all the years and the bruises, Ms. Kuhn never once called police.

“I stuck it out until I just couldn’t handle it anymore,” she said.

Ms. Kuhn said the household in which she was raised taught her she needed to make her marriage work. She had taken vows.

“My family didn’t know everything; he had completely alienated me from my family,” Ms. Kuhn said.

“His family made excuses for him and his mom would tell me, ‘oh, you know you shouldn’t argue with him when he’s drunk; you know what he’s like when he’s drunk.’”

“She was kind of telling me in a sense that it was my fault.”

When Ms. Kuhn eventually divorced her abusive husband, the two youngest children were 8 and 16. She focused all her attention repairing a broken relationship with her older children.

“They were really upset with me because I didn’t leave sooner,” Ms. Kuhn said of her older children. “They just didn’t have much respect for me.”

Help is available

The Chrysalis Shelter offers help and programs for both victims and offenders, and works closely with law enforcement, government and schools to strengthen its services and build greater awareness around domestic violence.

Last fiscal year, the shelter’s programs served 1,372 adults and children, according to Ms. Klahr.

“In the Town of Paradise Valley, the court offers a domestic-violence program for offenders through CHC Community Health Services,” said Lt. Horn.

The programs offer offenders support and educate them on how to maintain a healthy relationship, according to Ms. Klahr.

“The group process enables clients to share experiences — often very similar experiences — and learn from each other,” she said.

The therapy process is important, Ms. Klahr believes, because while jail time is a critical deterrent to committing a crime and breaking a law, once that time is completed, the behavior often continues.

“At the core of domestic abuse is the need to control another person with the use of power. That need comes from learned behaviors and belief systems that stem often from their childhoods and society around us,” said Ms. Khlar. “Jail isn’t always going to change that for a person.”

Ms. Kuhn didn’t seek therapy or help until years after her marriage ended. Others who find themselves in a similar situation are encouraged to act quicker.

“Many years later I found a woman that was referred to me by a friend, and at that point I felt like I had coped and had gotten over it,” said Ms. Kuhn. “You’re just telling yourself that in your head.”

The woman who Ms. Kuhn calls her “angel” helped her work through her past.

“Mostly I learned to deal with it in a healthy manner and realized I’m worth everything,” she recalled.

Ms. Kuhn is now a volunteer at the Chrysalis Shelter. She  works with children whose parents attend weekly meetings at the shelter.

Lt. Horn says residents who feel they are in danger should immediately call law enforcement.

“Don’t wait until you actually do get hurt,” Lt. Horn said. “Leave the scene and go somewhere safe.”

Ms. Klahr wants victims to remember that domestic abuse isn’t limited to physical harm.

“The abuse we are most familiar with is often physical, but abuse can also be emotional, verbal, financial, sexual, etc. and can be just as damaging and dangerous,” said Ms. Klahr.

“You deserve a life of peace, respect and happiness. That last part holds true for both victims and offenders,” she said.

For more information on the Chrysalis Shelter, visit http://noabuse.org.

For more information on the domestic violence program in Paradise Valley at the CHC Community Health Services, call 480-949-8871.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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