Over the years, Page Regional Domestic Violence Services (PRDVS) has evolved in its approach to breaking the cycle of physical and psychological trauma that often is a daily fact of life for American Indian women. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reports that almost 46% of American Indian women are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lifetime, rates significantly higher than for other ethnic groups.
When it opened in 1997, PRDVS was a five-bed shelter in a single-wide mobile home trailer donated by the City of Page. Now, operating under the name Another Way, it has 32 beds in four double-wide mobile homes that have been converted into duplexes.
Recently, the United Way of Northern Arizona, as part of the Social Safety-Net Services Coalition in Coconino County, provided funding that enabled Another Way to establish kitchenettes in each of the homes.
Expanding the size of its facility isn’t the only way the shelter has changed over the years.
Because it is looking to address the root problems faced by domestic abuse survivors and prevent “recidivism” (domestic violence survivors returning to their abusers), Another Way currently operates without state and federal resources, which would limit the types of services it could provide to clients.
“We spent a lot of our resources that were coming from state and federal monies on pretty much providing a bed with a pillow and food,” said Gregg Martinez, Executive Director of PRVDS. “And that’s fine, it’s better than fine. The issue we were running into is that we had no capacity to encourage them into counseling or see a doctor for a well-woman exam or help them with vocational rehabilitation.”
In fact, under the requirements and restrictions that came with federal and state funding, the length of stay for a client was only about six days, hardly enough time to make meaningful changes.
Now those living at Another Way stay for about 10 weeks on average, during which time they can rebuild their lives. And while the shelter now serves fewer people than when it accepted government funds, the success rate for clients has climbed dramatically, from 20% to 90%.
Success is measured in several different ways, Martinez said, including being gainfully employed, not returning to an abuser and family reunification if the state Department of Child Safety removed a client’s children because of domestic violence in the home.
In addition to the shelter, PRDVS also runs a thrift shop that helps support its mission and recently opened a subsidized health food store.
“A lot of people on the Navajo Nation have unhealthy diets, and a lot of their mental fatigue is due to gut issues,” Martinez said. “If people come and they can’t afford the vegetables from our greenhouse, we give them away.”
Martinez said he hopes that the success of Another Way will lead government agencies to revamp how they fund domestic violence programs.
“We really have to focus on 21st century services designed to serve 21st century clients,” he said. “We have a new generation experiencing intimate partner violence who aren’t going to respond the way their mothers or their grandmothers did. We have to be more innovative both in how we provide services and how government entities fund them. Rethinking what’s possible will be the key to addressing – and maybe one day eradicating – the problem of domestic and intimate partner violence.”