Terrorism is what happens within families plagued with domestic violence, some with the loss of life. Nationwide, a high number of domestic violence cases end in murder, and we had two such deaths in Ventura County recently. But there are solutions for preventing and responding to family violence. I work with the Ventura County Partnership for Safe Families, one of the places people can turn for help. But we need to increase the ability of all counties to recognize and prevent domestic violence.
Simply, domestic violence is when someone hurts the person he or she loves, with whom he or she has or used to have a relationship. Domestic violence does not happen just in families; it happens in any relationship and across all socioeconomic lines.
In my work, I am saddened to see the continuing lethal familial violence in today’s society. That sadness is compounded when I know that with so many in our community working to educate victims and perpetrators of violence, there are other choices available to those who resort to violence. Those of us who work with survivors know too well how difficult it is for a victim of domestic violence to “just walk away.” Adding complexity to the issue, most domestic violence homicides occur once the victim has already left, or is in the process of leaving.
One of every three women murdered in the United States in 2000 was killed by a husband or boyfriend, according to the Department of Justice. State records show that Ventura County law enforcement recorded the following average daily calls for domestic violence: 1998, 15.5; 1999, 16.7; 2000, 18.9; 2001, 20.9. Another disturbing statistic from the American Psychology Assn. for 1996: Forty percent to 60% of the men who abused their female partners also abused their children.
A community can make a difference by responding to terror within a relationship long before it reaches the point of being lethal. The Ventura County Partnership for Safe Families offers these simple instructions on how to report domestic violence:
* Call 911 for immediate help, or for local non-emergencies, call your local police department business phone number.
* If there are children, elders (65 or older) or dependent adults involved, report immediately to a local hotline; in Ventura, for instance, call the Ventura County Abuse Reporting Hotline at (805) 654-3200.
* Report abuse to a teacher, faith leader, health-care provider or a counselor.
There are also simple prevention strategies: Learn about domestic violence and then help educate and raise awareness; report domestic violence to law enforcement, the county’s abuse hotline or both; strive for accountability and responsibility by accepting domestic violence as a community issue that requires a community response.
Judy Jenkins is chairwoman of the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Committee of the Ventura County Partnership for Safe Families. www.partner shipforsafefamilies.org.