The Uncommon Man

June 19, 2008

Domestic Violence in MA nearly tripled from 05' to 07'

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE is ravaging Massachusetts: The number of related homicides and suicides has nearly tripled from 19 in 2005 to 55 in 2007, according to the local nonprofit group Jane Doe Inc. At a rate of more than one death a week, this number is the highest that Jane Doe has documented.
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Gruesome similarities are found in these cases: echoes of depression and rage; of past beatings; of perpetrators' threats to kill victims.

Last week, Governor Patrick took a crucial step by issuing a public health advisory on domestic violence, to alert the public and galvanize official action.

A public health perspective emphasizes the fact that domestic violence isn't just a personal problem, but rather a societal issue with huge costs for families and workplaces. Public health also promotes prevention and using data to come up with more effective policies and practices.

"People weren't following the data," said John Auerbach, the state's public health commissioner. Now the state will look more deeply into the numbers. This is essential, because intimate partner violence has been declining nationally from 1993 to 2005, according to the US Department of Justice. Jane Doe Inc. has found that from 2003 to 2007, the numbers of domestic violence related deaths have fallen or held steady in other New England states.

"We want to look at it from all angles," Toni Troop, Jane Doe's public relations director, explains, including the risk faced by immigrants, by spouses as compared to unmarried partners, and by having children from prior relationships.

Massachusetts is also asking healthcare providers to do more. Auerbach says obstetricians can discuss violence with women who are pregnant or even just thinking about conceiving, since research shows that homicide is the leading cause of death for women who are or were recently pregnant. Even dentists, who often see the aftermath of domestic violence assaults, could offer patients referrals for help.

The state should also bang harder on the drums of public awareness. Domestic violence counselors say victims often call for help because someone knew to give them the phone number for SafeLink (877-785-2020), the state's domestic violence hotline.

Domestic violence services are also slated to get a small increase in state funding. It won't cover all the unmet needs. But the governor's advisory should amplify this spending by calling for greater coordination and creativity, despite fiscal limitations.

The more Massachusetts knows about domestic violence, the more lives it can save.

This article was taken from the June 10th edition of the Boston Globe, originally titled "Healing the Hurt at Home."

Posted by at June 19, 2008 10:27 AM

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