The Union Recorder

April 5, 2014

National Crime Victims Rights Week: Engage in domestic violence awareness, be a solution

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — One hundred twenty-eight Georgians died in domestic violence-related homicides in 2012, the consecutive year that saw an increase in fatalities.

Next week begins National Crime Victims Rights Week, and locally there are several events slated to remember victims whose lives were cut short and create awareness on the issue.

Not all cases result in fatalities, but the violence takes numerous forms: emotional, psychological, physical, sexual and even financial. The number of violence cases weighs heavily in the thousands every year in Georgia and in Baldwin County.

Women and children are disproportionately most affected, and in many instances the abuse begins in the younger years. One in every four women in America at some point in their lifetimes will experience domestic violence. Yet, this type of violence if most often one of the nation’s most chronically underreported crimes.

Children often see first-hand the abuse and are more likely to contribute to the vicious cycle as they become adults.

Most often, children are directly involved. Of the 128 domestic violence fatalities in 2012, in the majority of the cases, the victim and the perpetrator of that homicide shared a minor child together, according to statistics from the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

According to the Georgia College Women’s Center, research shows that between 20 and 25 percent of college women will be the victim of a completed or attempted sexual assault by the time they graduate college. In the 2012 cases reviewed by the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, 46 percent of victims began their relationship with the person who eventually killed them when they were between the ages of 16 and 24.

A Violence Policy Center review of 2011 FBI crime data found that 94 percent of female homicide victims were murdered by a male they knew, and 61 percent of those killers were a spouse or intimate acquaintance.

Data also indicates, however, that there are means of support. Faith-based organizations are regularly safe havens for victims. Employers and co-workers have the potential to increase victim safety through training on recognizing symptoms, supporting victims and making referrals. In reviewed cases, 75 percent of victims were employed outside of the home at the time of the homicide.

Support is available and generating greater awareness of these crimes is key.

There are 46 local domestic violence agencies across the state, which offer advice, support and shelter to domestic violence victims. You can call 1-800-33-HAVEN, or 1-800-334-2836. It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Local events next week will provide resources and remembrance. The GC Women’s Center will conduct programs on assault all week long, culminating in the annual Take Back the Night survivor’s celebration on Thursday. This year’s annual march and candlelight vigil in recognition of the 30th anniversary of National Crime Victims Rights Week will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday. The march will lead community members from Bonner Park to the Baldwin County Courthouse on Wilkinson Street where family members touched by domestic violence will speak on those they’ve lost.

We must remember their names. We must remember their stories. We must remember, that any life lost to this type of senseless violence is one life too many.