It’s time to expand the current national focus on sexual harassment and sexual assault to include domestic abuse.
Like sexual harassment and assault, domestic abuse predominantly affects women — and a surprising number of men — and can have devastating effects on their lives. It’s a crime without socioeconomic boundaries that’s often hidden from the outside world.
Like sexual harassment and assault, domestic abuse is about power. It’s a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain control over another within a domestic relationship. That can mean assaults, threats, intimidation, economic deprivation and emotional abuse.
Years ago, the issue of domestic violence was a significant talking point on Whidbey Island and across the nation. There were marches on the island and speakers who addressed a variety of groups.
The problem has persisted, but much of the attention was diverted elsewhere.
Police and prosecutors on Whidbey Island are all too familiar with domestic violence. Reports from the Island County Sheriff’s Office showed that 23 percent of reported assaults involve domestic relationships, though experts say that number is underestimated.
Domestic-violence calls are known to be the most dangerous for officers. Nearly 15 percent of homicides are domestic-violence-related.
Children from households where domestic abuse occurs are not safe. Nearly 30 percent of 10th graders in Island County reported in the Healthy Youth Survey having been physically hurt on purpose by an adult serious enough to leave a mark or cause an injury.
Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence and / or stalking by a partner that has an impact on their functioning, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Island County government is attempting to address the problem. Island County’s Community Health Improvement Plan identifies interpersonal abuse as a public health concern. The plan calls for the training of a variety of people in the community to recognize and respond to domestic and sexual abuse.
One of the things these people will be trained to do is to get information about services into the hands of victims, which is vital. The services are only effective if people know they are there.
The county’s plan is a good start to dealing with a persistent and dangerous problem. Hopefully it will also help raise awareness and drive more resources towards help and prevention..