Group gives hugs in memory of Scottsdale woman

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Group gives hugs in memory of Scottsdale woman

Friends of a domestic-violence victim hugged more than 100 people outside Scottsdale Stadium.

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Friends of Sarah Drewey, a victim killed by domestic violence, hand out hugs in her memory outside the San Francisco Giants Stadium in Scottsdale.

Most people’s thoughts were on Cactus League baseball as they walked toward Scottsdale Stadium, so some were taken aback when a group of people wearing T-shirts that said “Stop Domestic Violence” approached them with open arms.

Faces went from confused to surprised. Their lips broke into a smile and they moved in to embrace a complete stranger.

“People need hugs in this world,” said Jill Bauman, who offered hugs Wednesday outside the stadium to celebrate a friend’s life cut short last month by domestic violence. “So I think we’ll be doing this more often.”

Bauman was a friend of Sarah Drewer, who was murdered Feb. 3 by her estranged husband four days after authorities served a protective order against him, according to Scottsdale police.

Wednesday would have been Drewer’s 34th birthday, so a group of her friends decided to celebrate her life by offering hugs to anyone who’d accept.

“We can maybe change somebody’s mind and save a life,” said 26-year-old Kassandra Caldwell, another friend of Drewer’s, who hugged dozens of people she didn’t know on the northeast corner of Osborn Road and Drinkwater Boulevard.

Arizona ranked eighth in the nation for calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline during the first half of 2014. Statewide, the total number of fatalities related to domestic violence dropped by about 24 percent from 2012 to 2014, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said during a recent news conference about his office’s efforts to increase prosecutions of domestic-violence cases involving strangulation.

FREE HUGS IN SCOTTSDALE

Clockwise from left, Jill Bauman, William Armijo (inClockwise from left, Jill Bauman, William Armijo (inAngie Bilder (with sign) gives a free hug to raiseAngie Bilder (with sign) gives a free hug to Rick FiustAngie Bilder (with sign) gives a free hug to Peter

To stop domestic violence, Arizonans must approach it as a public-health issue that affects everyone, said Maria Garay, CEO of Sojourner Center, a Phoenix-based organization providing shelter and support services to people affected by domestic violence. Key to ending the cycle of domestic violence is educating children, who fill more than 50 percent of the beds at Sojourner’s shelter, she said.

“Children are resilient,” Garay said. “If you intervene and provide the right resources, you can change their trajectory.”

Court records show that Drewer had been a domestic-violence victim since at least 2009, when she requested a protective order against her husband because she feared for her life and he had weapons in the house. But Drewer had taken steps in the past year to get away from the abusive marriage. She had lost weight, gained confidence and recently moved in with her parents, friends said.

“(Sarah) was completely ready to change her life, and she was the happiest person I knew,” said Caldwell, a workout partner of Drewer’s. “We miss her, but I do feel like (giving free hugs) is what she would have wanted us to do.”

On Feb. 3, Drewer returned to the home, near 68th Street and Chaparral Road, to grab some possessions, Scottsdale police said. But her 46-year-old husband was there, too. A construction worker responded to a child’s call for help, took one handgun away from the husband and led Drewer and her child from the home. But police said the husband got another handgun, ordered the worker to take the child, shot Drewer and then shot himself.

One of the most dangerous times for domestic-violence victims is when they decide to leave their abuser, Garay said.

“She’s rejecting him and so he wants to regain control,” she said

Domestic-violence victims who decide to leave should seek professional help relocating to an undisclosed location or, if possible, leave the state, Garay said. Before leaving, victims should gather documentation such as birth certificates and Social Security cards, so there is never a reason to go back. When they get to the new location, victims should communicate the situation to their children’s school administrators.

If a woman decides not to leave her abuser, and Garay pointed out that many don’t, it’s crucial that they not be alienated or judged. Further, she said many men who commit acts of domestic violence want help, but society has left them out of the overall discussion.

“We need to focus on how we can help that couple,” she said. “It’s a hard issue that invokes a lot of emotion.”

The crowds in front of Scottsdale Stadium waned as the start of the game drew closer. By then, the group of Drewer’s friends had grown from a trio to nearly a dozen. Their enthusiasm did not decrease with the throngs of people. They waved signs, jumping up and down as cars passed with horns honking and passengers waiving.

“Free hugs are hard to get,” said Pauline Jue, of San Francisco, after accepting a hug. “Spread the love.”

Republic Reporter Alexa N. D’Angelo contributed to this article.