Curbing domestic violence

Nov. 01, 2013 @ 08:09 AM

A handful of Durham residents gathered downtown earlier this week to remember the lives of 24 of our fellow citizens who have died in domestic violence since 2010.

There may seem be a sense of déjà vu for vigils like this – they come around with  frequency and the message is generally the same. Perhaps the turnout is relatively low because at some level we are weary of the exercise.

Let’s hope it is not because we are numb.

The depressing statistics can tell us the raw numbers that result from domestic violence. They cannot capture the human suffering, the emotional distress, the physical pain and the fractured relationships that underlie those numbers.

Here are some numbers, nonetheless.

The Domestic Violence Resource Center, citing the U.S.  Bureau of Justice Statistics, reports on its website that on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. Three out of 10 murders of women, according to the bureau’s numbers, are at the hands of intimate partners.

Men, while less often the victims, are far from immune. Five percent of the murders of men, the bureau reports, are by intimate partners.

One in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Domestic violence affects everyone in one way or another,” Tammy Donald, spokesman for the Durham Crisis Response Center, said at Tuesday evening’s candlelight vigil. The statistics on the national violence resource center’s site bear that out.

“Nearly three out of four (74 percent) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence,” according to an Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence.” “Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.”

The crisis response center, which sponsored the Tuesday vigil, provides services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  In 2011, advocates answered 3,859 calls on its crisis line. At its

emergency shelter, 97 women and 95 children found a safe home in 2011. Due to lack of space, 37 individuals seeking shelter were directed to other agencies.

We long for the day when vigils such as Tuesday’s are no longer necessary because domestic violence has been vanquished. That day will probably never come, but we can strive as a community to reduce the toll.

The center’s work is an important part of that.

“Studies show that access to shelter services leads to a 60-70 percent reduction in incidence and severity of re-assault …compared to women who did not access shelter,” the national resource center says. “Shelter services led to greater reduction in severe re-assault than did seeking court or law enforcement protection, or moving to a new location.”

If you want to help support the Durham Crisis Response Center’s work, or to learn more about it, you can visit its website at www. http://durhamcrisisresponse.org/.

And we can encourage a society in which domestic violence is unthinkable.