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PCAO hosts kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

FLORENCE – The Pinal County Attorney’s Office would like to thank the dozens of law enforcement personnel, elected officials and other county staff who attended a kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

County Attorney Kent Volkmer addressed the crowd that gathered Tuesday morning in Florence to mark the month of October, in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Despite us doing a lot with these type of events, providing tons of services, law enforcement getting additional training, domestic violence is not slowing down,” Volkmer said. “In fact our numbers show a dramatic increase. During the Covid pandemic…we’re talking about almost a 20% increase in the raw number of [domestic violence] calls that are occurring.”

Volkmer touted efforts across Pinal County to address domestic violence and noted the rate of related incidents is lower than surrounding counties.

“This is one of our issues and it’s insidious,” Volkmer said. “It knows no socioeconomic boundaries, it knows no racial boundaries, it knows no boundaries…it does not matter. It affects everybody across the board.”

Volkmer also touched on efforts to address underlying issues that lead to domestic violence.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to incarcerate people and make them behave. We’re going to have to give them additional skills and additional ways to handle interpersonal conflict.”

In 2020, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office Victim Services Division provided services to 2,265 victims of domestic violence. In 2019, there were 96 domestic violence-related deaths in Arizona, according to the latest numbers available from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The kickoff event also featured the courageous personal story from Jacqueline Lopez, who is a Senior Victim Advocate at PCAO, as well as a domestic violence survivor herself.

“This is actually the first time I’ve told my entire story,” she said.

Lopez detailed the shooting death of her mother at the hands of her father. She also described intimate details of repeated sexual and verbal abuse she suffered while in a toxic relationship that was difficult to escape.

“I was so ‘love crazed’ that I couldn’t see what was going on,” Lopez said. “My best friend stopped talking to me because she said she just couldn’t stand by and watch [him] destroy my personality anymore.”

Lopez said she finally got to a point where she sought help from family and came to stay with them in Arizona.

“It took a very long time for me to stop looking over my shoulder, thinking that he would show up at any time,” Lopez said.

Lopez hopes her story resonates with others.

“To this day, I still bear scars on the outside and on the inside,” Lopez said. “I am here today, telling my story, so people can know that you can rise above the pain and suffering.”

Lopez also noted her professional role at the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.

“I believe that I have found my calling in life, working as a victim advocate, trying to help others who have suffered at the hands of another,” she said.

Lopez received an ovation from the crowd, and many words of encouragement for having the bravery to share what she endured.

“I want to thank you for sharing that story with us,” Volkmer said, before turning to the law enforcement personnel in attendance. “She’s the success story. She’s the reason that you all do what you do…so we can help those people and they can turn into these success stories, that they can have a family, they can raise a child and they can give back to our community.”

Volkmer noted the message it sends with having the various agencies in the room together.

“To me, this is us saying as a community, we stand united against this.”