This week we are sharing a report from The Women's Fund of Omaha, State of Domestic Violence in Douglas County, released last month. While the data is specific to Douglas County, physical and sexual violence happens across the state and is chronically underreported - sometimes especially in communities where everyone knows your abuser, and the power dynamics may be influenced by personal relationships and history.
Since offenders of domestic violence are held accountable primarily through the criminal justice system, the research in this report mainly focuses on that system and trends over a three-year period from 2015 to 2017. Data from local agencies who provide services to victims is also featured in the report.
Physical and sexual violence manifests in many forms of abuse within our local communities. As domestic violence is significantly underreported, we cannot know the total number of victims in our community who experience such abuse. National figures estimate that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence - such as being hit with a fist or hard object or slammed against something - by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
By looking at what we do know from the agencies in our community who respond to these situations daily, we can begin to understand the scope of abuse locally and how to best intervene to hold offenders accountable and keep victims safe.
The report highlights that the extent of domestic violence that is happening in our community is far more than we can ever know. The following considerations could help make an impact in our community:
- Be trauma informed by training all professionals who respond to domestic violence to understand trauma.
- Identify unique solutions to reduce repeat offenses and better hold offenders accountable.
- Ensure accessibility of safety tools, such as protection orders, so they are accessible for victims.
- Increase capacity in the criminal justice system based on the increase in arrests and charges. Increase services and advocacy to ensure every victim who reaches out gets the help they need.
- Advocate for public policy that holds offenders accountable and keeps victims safe.
- Fund victim services legal services to make these more accessible to victims.
- Create options for victims for housing and long-term sustainability.
- Implement prevention programs that teach youth and young adults about healthy relationships and consent.
- Set standards for responding to domestic violence, and
- Hold each other accountable to follow those standards.
Thank you to the Women's Fund of Omaha for providing this very important data, as well as resources and solutions organizations can take steps to end domestic violence in their communities.