Group says deaths pro­vide case for be­liev­ing sur­vivors

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence fa­tal­i­ties in state ‘can be pre­vented.’

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By Rita Price

As she worked to tally all the lives lost to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in Ohio in the state’s most-re­cent fis­cal year, Jo Si­mon­sen couldn’t help but re­flect on the di­vi­sions sown amid high-pro­file re­ports of re­la­tion­ship vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault and a surg­ing #MeToo move­ment.

“I was think­ing about what the theme for the year might have been,” Si­mon­sen said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day at the Statehouse. “Is it be­lief, or is it dis­be­lief ?”

Si­mon­sen, a man­ager and ad­vo­cacy direc­tor at the Ohio Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Net­work, counted 91 deaths in 69 cases from July 1, 2017, to June 30. That’s a de­crease from the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year, when sta­tis­tics com­piled from me­dia re­ports in the same pe­riod showed 116 deaths.

Franklin County, how­ever, trended in the op­po­site di­rec­tion: The county topped the state with 16 deaths re­lated to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, up from 11 the prior year. The higher fig­ure in­cludes two Wester­ville po­lice of­fi­cers fa­tally shot in Fe­bru­ary as they re­sponded to a do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence call.

Si­mon­sen and oth­ers who spoke dur­ing the gath­er­ing didn’t call out the Ohio State Uni­ver­sity foot­ball pro­gram or dis­cuss new U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh by name. But those con­tro­ver­sies loomed large as ad­vo­cates talked about the need to take re­ports se­ri­ously in­stead of tak­ing sides.

“To­day, I want to present the case for be­liev­ing sur­vivors,” Si­mon­sen said, stand­ing be­side a map of the state stud­ded with push pins to sig­nify the lo­ca­tion of the deaths. “These can be pre­vented.”

Ohio State sus­pended foot­ball coach Ur­ban Meyer for the first three games of this sea­son af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his ac­tions sur­round­ing for­mer re­ceivers coach Zach Smith, whose ex-wife, Court­ney Smith, al­leged that she was a do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence vic­tim who had suf­fered years of phys­i­cal and emo­tional abuse.

The Sen­ate con­firmed Ka­vanaugh for the court by a nar­row mar­gin Satur­day af­ter a Cal­i­for­nia pro­fes­sor, Chris­tine Blasey Ford, tes­ti­fied in a hear­ing that he had sex­u­ally as­saulted her when they were teenagers at pri­vate schools in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Both cases cleaved pub­lic opin­ion and cre­ated bat­tle lines in Ohio and through­out the na­tion.

Nancy Ney­lon, the long­time ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Ohio Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Net­work, said the fights dam­aged ef­forts to in­crease aware­ness and im­prove re­sponses to re­ports of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault — be­fore there are in­juries or fa­tal­i­ties.

“It’s di­vi­sive­ness in the dis­course,” Ney­lon said. “I think it is a set­back.”

She said those who work in the field or ad­vo­cate on be­half of vic­tims have big jobs to do.

“You must all be so­cialchange agents,” Ney­lon said. “It’s not enough to sim­ply pro­vide ser­vices.”

Ohio can’t af­ford to re­main one of the few states that doesn’t set aside fund­ing for do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence pro­grams, she said. “Even now, shel­ters still have bud­gets on a shoe­string.”

The fa­tal­ity re­port also pro­vides de­tails about the cir­cum­stances of the crimes, such as how many of the 69 cases that were re­viewed in­cluded mul­ti­ple deaths (21), how many chil­dren were killed (three) and how many at­tack­ers were killed by an in­ter­ven­ing third party (nine).

In at least 46 per­cent of the fa­tal in­ci­dents, “the vic­tims did leave or were in the process of leav­ing,” Si­mon­sen said.

The re­port noted one 18-year-old woman in Guernsey County who had just penned a “Pros and Cons” list about her re­la­tion­ship with the per­pe­tra­tor in which she wrote, “liar, dis­re­spect­ful, bad tem­per, big ego.” In­ves­ti­ga­tors say she ap­peared to have com­piled it near the time of her death.

JOSHUA A. BICKEL / DIS­PATCH

Jo Si­mon­sen, fam­ily sys­tems ad­vo­cacy direc­tor for the Ohio Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Net­work, de­liv­ers re­sults from the an­nual Ohio Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Fa­tal­ity Study dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Ohio Statehouse on Wed­nes­day.

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