Domestic violence hurts communities as well as families
The horrors of mass shootings, the appalling allegations from Hollywood, and the protests and divisiveness in our nation make the headlines and lead the news.
Folks shake their heads in disbelief, saddened but relieved that the violence and the sexual assaults are somewhere else. These tragedies are not in “my neighborhood, not in my town.”
While those devastating single acts are not local, another insidious threat exists within our communities: Domestic violence.
Gun violence, threats, rape and sex assault as weapons to control women and men and children are in every neighborhood. Domestic violence goes on behind closed doors as crimes that include rape of a partner, physical and sexual abuse of children, and violence by one family member against another. Violence can escalate without anyone outside the family knowing it exists.
Indeed, the #metoo movement to raise awareness of rape crimes did not start with a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano urging people to speak out and produce “a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” According to news reports this week, it started with activist Tarana Burke as a movement to draw attention to rape crimes, inspired by a child’s story of domestic sexual assault by her mother’s live-in boyfriend.
Ask any local police department: Domestic violence calls are among the worst they witness and at the top of the list for situations that put police at risk. The numbers are staggering: — More than 1 in 3 women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
— About 7 million women are raped or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner each year.
— One in five women and one in 77 men has experienced rape in his or her lifetime.
Nationwide, an average of three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner every day. In three weeks time, that amounts to a greater death toll than the Las Vegas shooting.
Those statistics are from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which is a sponsor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month every October.
The purpose of setting aside this month is to raise awareness of the crimes, often against women and children, that go on within families and in dating relationships.
Children are particularly vulnerable as both victims of and witnesses to domestic violence, with approximately 15.5 million children exposed to domestic violence every year, according to information on the Network website. The costs — to employers, law enforcement, victims services providers and entire communities — is astronomical.
Awareness can not only help prevent crimes from escalating by reporting them but can also boost services to the victims and witnesses of domestic violence.
Locally, the response by law enforcement and courts is exemplary.
Many police departments in this region are trained in intervention. Victim services’ providers such as the Women’s Center of Montgomery, The Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County, Laurel House, and Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center offer support to victims.
A recent ceremony in Norristown highlighted the work of The Domestic Violence Legal Network of Montgomery County, established in 1986 by professionals from law enforcement, the judiciary and victims’ services agencies for the purpose of sharing resources and expertise to serve domestic violence victims more effectively.
County Judge Kelly C. Wall, administrative judge of the county’s family court division, was honored at the ceremony for her “outstanding efforts in the fight against domestic violence.”
“I wish that there was not a need for this effort to exist,” said Montgomery County Commissioners Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh, “but we know that domestic violence has been with us forever and will probably, sadly, continue to be with us for the foreseeable future.”
While we worry about the next mass shooting or the next media mogul’s transgressions, violence continues to claim victims in our own communities.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a movement to open closed doors.
“... Domestic violence does not occur in one horrific tragedy,” Judge Wall said at the recent ceremony, “it occurs victim by victim on a daily basis.”
Stopping it begins with awareness.
Ignoring it would be the real tragedy of our times.