Erie’s fatalities don’t have to be indicative of Erie’s future.
By Linda Lyons King, SafeNet’s Executive Director
In March 2018, there were four homicides in Erie.
Four fatalities as a result of domestic violence shocked us all. We know that domestic violence homicide is no respecter of demographics. No group, irrespective of education, race, income, age, or gender is exempt, as the recent homicides illustrate. But if demographics are not a key as to who is likely to be a victim, can these situations be prevented? If so, how do we even start?
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner over another to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) describes intimate partner violence (IPV is another term for domestic violence) as a “serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. IPV describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercion) by a current or former partner.
Nationally, the injuries presenting in the Emergency Departments that are a result of domestic violence are equal to the total of muggings, auto accidents and rapes combined. The cost of domestic violence exceeds a staggering $5.9 billion per year! This is represented by medical costs, law enforcement costs and court costs; but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Loss of work time, on-going health problems that may seem unrelated, and the impact on children capture a bit more, but still this does not capture the full cost.
Locally, each year we see an annual report published in the Erie Times-News describing homicides. And each year, about 50% of the murders are victims of domestic violence. SafeNet receives over 2,000 hotline calls each year seeking help with violent or abusive relationships. About 20% are from friends or family members who fear for a loved one’s safety. About ten percent are from male victims.
The best prevention comes early. Violence is a learned behavior. If a child is witnessing violence in the home, the odds are very high that he/she will repeat the pattern by becoming either an abuser or a victim Children need to know what healthy relationships look like and to recognize unhealthy controlling relationships. During courtship, a controlling relationship can masquerade as “true love”.
Intervention is another matter. Often the victim is in denial and doesn’t recognize the abuse for what it is; does not recognize the many areas of her/his life that have eroded because of the toxic relationship; or may be shamed by the situation and, in an effort to hide it from family and friends, succeeds in isolating herself. She/he may live in a constant state of anxiety because there are often no predictors of episodes of violence; therefore, the victim is constantly “walking on eggshells”. To effectively intervene, the professional community, particularly health care, law enforcement and social services, need to screen for domestic violence. When routine screening takes place the victim gets the message that she is not alone and that there is a recognized risk to health and safety.
SafeNet is ready to assist victims but is also ready to work with friends and family. Training is available to help organizations respond through screening and referrals. Programs for youth on dating violence and healthy relationships are available. We are seeking a cultural shift similar to what we have experienced with tolerance to smoking in public spaces and driving under the influence. Domestic violence is not a women’s problem but one that affects the entire community, men women and children and each may be a victim of abuse. SafeNet recently began training coaches with an evidenced based curriculum for young athletes called “Coaching Boys Into Men”. The curriculum is highly effective and has been used world- wide.
Everett Koop, a former Surgeon General, said “Domestic Violence is our number one public health problem and one that brings with it, a price we can no longer bear” The statement holds to this day.
For information or to request the Coaching Boys Into Men program contact Lerrone Jenkins at email@example.com or call 814-455-1774 ext 261.