By Chris Caraveo
When an employee at a south Phoenix care facility survived a shooting from the hands of her ex-husband, she also avoided becoming a statistic unfortunately reserved for females killed in the workplace.
However, in Arizona, those types of deaths are few and far between, according to a recent study.
The month of April is dedicated to several causes aimed at workplace, sexual, and domestic violence. In turn, the National Council for Home Safety and Security and Alarms.org recently released a study revealing the states with the highest rates of female workplace homicides per capita.
Arizona had the lowest score, translating to having one of the fewest number of workplace homicides. The study used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed Arizona only had one female workplace homicide reported between 2011 and 2017.
Arkansas has the highest rate, followed by South Carolina, Nevada, Florida and Tennessee.
However, all domestic violence is a concern as survivors of abuse live with the aftermath.
“Domestic violence is a highly traumatic experience that can negatively impact many realms of a survivor’s life, including psychological, physical, spiritual, and social health,” Tasha Menaker, co-chief executive officer for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, told the Daily News-Sun. “Domestic violence takes many forms, and may or may not include physical violence.
“In fact, the most common tactic used by abusers is financial abuse, such as withholding money from survivors, intentionally damaging a victim’s credit, or controlling all household finances,” she continued. “This is often a strategy for abusers to isolate and control victims, and it makes it exceptionally difficult for survivors to leave the relationship and access safety and housing.”
The study found women were nearly three times more likely than men to suffer from homicide-related deaths in the workplace. And April is the month when these type of homicides were most likely to occur.
Alarms.org compared much of its data to the Violence Policy Center’s 2018 report, When Men Murder Women, which analyzed 2016 homicide data. Arizona was 27th with a per capita rate of 1.24 homicides per 100,000 women, compared to the national rate of 1.2.
“This is impressive, given that Arizona is the 14th most populated state in the country to have low rates in both our study and the VPC,” stated Amanda Palumbo, researcher at Alarms.org.
The study says domestic relationships played a factor in the greatest share of workplace homicides. Still, even that revelation can be a worry for those trying to work.
“It’s extremely concerning because it’s putting other employees and customers at risk,” Ms. Palumbo stated. “It’s heartbreaking to not only see a domestic violence victim injured or killed at work but also innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.”
Ms. Menaker echoed that concern.
“It is disheartening that most of the victims in this report were harmed by the people closest to them,” she said.
“So, while these findings are extremely distributing, we all are too aware of the greater risk that women face when it comes to lethal violence at the hands of their partners,” Ms. Menaker said. “Consistently, women have been more likely than men to be killed by their partners, both in Arizona and nationally.”
Employers can take a number of steps to better protect their employees. For example, always making sure a back door or loading dock is locked and triggered by an alarm.
Ms. Palumbo recommends having field employees take necessary steps to make sure they are safe when they’re not in the building. This can include companies tracking vehicles via GPS along with a panic button an employee can press if they find themselves in an emergency.
Some law enforcement agencies perform free threat assessments for business and offer suggestions the business can take to better secure their establishment.
The Mesa Police Department is one of those agencies.
Brandi George, a public information officer for Mesa police, said businesses must go through a process.
“The requests go through the crime prevention officers, depending on which district the business is in,” Ms. George told the Daily News-Sun. “They will even provide safety/security training for the employees on shoplifting and robbery prevention, etc.”
Ms. Menaker said businesses can seek training on the dynamics of domestic violence and strategies to appropriately respond to survivors. Workplaces can also develop active shooter policies and policies incorporating disciplinary action for employees who engage in violent behaviors; and provide information about community resources to victims.
Workplacesrespond.org is a national resource with toolkits for employers, survivors, and advocates addressing domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.
“Workplaces can also allow for paid sick leave that has resulted from sexual or domestic violence, and be flexible with survivors who are navigating systems in order to access safety,” Ms. Menaker said. “The most important thing is to respond to employees experiencing violence with support and compassion, and remember what you are seeing or hearing is likely only the tip of the iceberg.”
Officers stop domestic violence shooting
In March, Jose Manuel Castillo, 58, of Buckeye, was arrested after allegedly shooting his ex-wife outside Hacienda Healthcare in south Phoenix. Yes, the same place where a man is accused of raping a woman who later gave birth.
Fortunately for the shooting victim, two Gila River police officers working security at the facility intervened, saving the woman from further harm.
Records indicate the woman had recently divorced Mr. Castillo and obtained an order of protection against him that included Hacienda Healthcare as a protected address.
She did not know Mr. Castillo owned a firearm. And despite there not being any physical violence in their relationship, the woman told police her ex-husband showed signs of jealousy and accusing her of having a boyfriend.
“There are a number of incidents where an assailant has tried to kill an employee and luckily was not successful,” Ms. Palumbo stated. “While our report didn’t focus on that, it is just as much of a problem as workplace homicides. Those injuries can often leave permanent physical and emotional damage for not only the victim but their colleagues.”
Survivors are not alone
One of the most important things for survivors of domestic and sexual violence to know is there is help.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence’s Helpline at 1-800-782-6400.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was last week, with a theme of “Honoring our Past… Creating Hope for the Future.”
On Wednesday, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission hosted a statewide event at the El Zaribah Shrine in Phoenix, where attendees honored victim services workers across the state who work daily on behalf of crime victims.
“Our goal at the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission is to continue to fight alongside our partners to raise awareness of the needs of victims, find ways to improve access to the current system, provide greater resources, and increase protections for all victims,” stated Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney and Commission Chairwoman.
The ACJC oversees and administers the Arizona’s Crime Victim Compensation and the Crime Victim Assistance programs. The latter program provides grants to private non-profit or government agencies that deliver direct services to crime victims. The other provides financial assistance to victims who may have experienced a financial loss as a direct result of a crime.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the Victim Compensation Program assisted 1,794 victims and 2,540 individuals that include relatives and/or associated individuals.
For Fiscal Year 2019, the program has been allocated about $4.5 million.
The data came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2011 and 2017. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming were not included due to missing or insufficient data.
Contact reporter Chris Caraveo at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: The print version of this story appears in the April 15 Daily News-Sun. The quotes attributed to Amanda Palumbo in the online version are attributed in print to Lauren Johnson, media outreach official for Alarms.org. Ms. Palumbo provided the answers to questions sent to Ms. Johnson.