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U.S. Domestic Violence Murder Rate Rises

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Why you should care: New stats say nearly 1,000 women are killed each year by intimate partners.

A week ago Tuesday, on the second day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, President Donald Trump told the press gathered on the White House lawn, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of. This is a very difficult time.” He echoed comments made earlier that week by his son and other supporters who say they’re concerned about the potential for false sexual assault allegations.

His words came within weeks of some striking new statistics. In September, the nonprofit Violence Policy Center released its annual study of numbers from the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports, showing that …

In 2016, more than 1,800 women were murdered by men in single-victim or single-offender incidents submitted to the FBI, and 85 percent of them were murdered by a man they knew.

Of the 1,809 women killed, 962 were wives, ex-wives or current girlfriends — meaning more than half were or had been romantically linked to their killer. And the percentage has risen 11 percent since 2014 — these figures are for 2016, the most recent year available — when it had been falling for several years previously. The 962 figure was actually lower than the true number of intimate partner murders, as the FBI doesn’t include ex-girlfriends in its reporting, even though the CDC defines ex-girlfriends as intimate partners. Many domestic violence killings occur right after recent breakups or during separations.

For comparison’s sake, women murder their male intimate partners at 25 percent that rate, according to data from the National Center for Juvenile Justice. If women were murdering men at equal rates, this month’s conversation about a “scary time” likely would be focused on something other than false accusations.

And the situation for women is not getting better. A look at news stories from early 2018 tells us that more than 10 women across the U.S. were killed by male intimate partners in just 24 hours between 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and 5 p.m. on New Year’s Day 2018, with more than 25 women murdered by past or present partners in the first week of the year. Contrary to what some believe, intimate partner homicides in the United States touch all ethnicities, socioeconomic groups and geographic locations. But the one thing they all have in common? The victims will never get the chance to plead their case, defend themselves, or raise their own sons or daughters.

Any politician who claims he’s fearful for his sons rather than his daughters is diverting attention from a dangerous problem …

Just over a year ago, in July of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control released the results of a long-range study of murders of women in 18 states, concluding that from 2003 to 2014, 10,018 women were murdered, half of those by a current or former romantic partner. Of those partners, 98 percent were men. That’s 5,000 women murdered over 11 years by intimate partners in just 18 states.

Any politician who claims he’s fearful for his sons rather than his daughters is diverting attention from a dangerous problem in the U.S. in a month dedicated to highlighting domestic violence and discussing solutions.

And there are solutions, for those willing to talk about them. Last year, the CDC released a document titled “Preventing intimate partner violence across the lifespan.” It included a package of programs, policies and practices for reducing domestic violence in American culture. Strategies included enlisting men and boys to help prevent violence, like a program that focuses on using high school athletic coaches to teach their male teams to respect women. The CDC also emphasizes that men should have access to psychological counseling without fearing a negative stigma. They cite an Air Force counseling program that data shows reduced moderate family violence by 30 percent.

Indeed, domestic violence experts across the country are saying that it’s important to teach healthy relationship behaviors to both young men and young women from the start. Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect, a similar hotline for teens and people in their 20s, says her organization has developed Healthy Relationship Huddles, a toolkit for young couples and communities to talk about healthy relationships. “We are finding that to truly be in front of domestic violence, we need to start conversations around sixth and seventh grade,” she says. “Many middle schoolers have already experienced controlling behaviors, verbal abuse and, unfortunately, physical abuse.”

Ray-Jones also noted that the National Domestic Violence Hotline has seen a 30 percent jump in contacts over the last year, and is up to as many as 2,000 contacts per day. “People are seeing threads of their own experiences” in news stories about violence against women, and the conversations they generate, she says, “and we believe that is prompting them to ask for help.”

For each person killed by domestic violence, collateral victims suffer too. The Dallas Morning News last year noted that in Texas in 2016, 146 women were murdered in domestic violence incidents (about one every other day) and 24 “bystanders” were killed in these incidents. Additionally, 183 children lost a parent.

After last month, we know the names of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Ford, but this month we should talk about women who were unable to survive a conflict involving a male partner, whose murders were reported in just the first three days of 2018: Linda Pa Vue, 29, of Minnesota; Stephanie Killeen, 46, of Ohio; Stacy Loknath, 26, of New York; Leticia Vela, 25, of Michigan; Kristin Eberhardt, 42, of Pennsylvania; Claire VanLandingham, 27, of Illinois; Betty Lasley, 65, of Kentucky; Francisca Ramirez, 38, of California; Ashley Newman, 30, of Ohio, and Chandra Mays, 29, of Tennessee.

Each of their cases could have made national news, but there are so many domestic violence murders every day that each gets drowned out by the next. In fact, the prosecutors often announce that there’s “no danger to the surrounding community,” and the media coverage stops. But then there’s no discussion of why the tragedy happened or how to prevent a similar one in the future.

Judge Kavanaugh’s life is not over — he got a promotion. For the women above and their collateral victims, it’s a different story.

Caren Lissner, OZY Author

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