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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Innovations in Coping with Domestic Violence at Sojourner: The nonprofit has launched a pet shelter program and begun formal screenings for and treatment of traumatic brain injuries.

Apr 30, 2016 11:54AM ● By By Martin Miron

The Sojourner Center is the largest domestic violence service organization in Arizona and one of the largest in the country, providing 400 women and children on-site and 8,000 across the community annually a continuum of multicultural services. Individuals and families impacted by domestic violence in Arizona receive emergency shelter, transitional housing, domestic violence education, safety planning, lay-legal advocacy, case management, a child development center, 24-hour crisis hotline, referral services, community education and healthcare through an on-site clinic.

Sojourner’s new brain recovery and inter-professional neuroscience (BRAIN) program partners with schools, clinics or departments to screen, treat, and research traumatic brain injuries. Chief Executive Officer Maria E. Garay-Serratos, MSW, Ph.D., says, “Concussions among professional football players, and other athletes, gets a lot of attention these days. It’s estimated that 21 million women are walking around with brain injuries versus up to 1.8 million people who sustained their injuries playing sports.”

There has been very little research done on concussions and undiagnosed brain injuries among victims of domestic violence, and the available research says it may be as high as 67 percent of victims suffer from an undiagnosed brain injury.

In another pioneering program, Sojourner Center and its partner Lost Our Home Pet Rescue are piloting the first concurrent pet shelter program in Maricopa County. This program will be essential in providing a comprehensive care continuum for the entire family and loving family pet.

Chief Advancement Officer Teri Hauser, CFRE, says, “Forty percent of women who are victims of domestic violence and who have pets will not leave the abusive situation because they believe they have no place to go with their pet. This program removes a barrier from those individuals that want to get out of their current situation.”

The program provides comfortable shelter, basic daily care, exercise for dogs and cats and special accommodations for other types of family pets such as birds and fish. Pet therapy will be an important component of the program, allowing pets a safe place to heal alongside their owners. A workforce readiness program prepares interested domestic violence survivors in a career working with companion pets.

Sojourner Center is located in Phoenix. To reach the Crisis Hotline, call 602-244-0089 or the main office at 602-244-0997. For more information, visit

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