On a typical day across the country, our domestic violence programs help more than 64,000 victims, 1,100 of whom live right here in Kentucky.
But lack of funds, space and personnel mean another 10,000 have to wait for the services they need, including almost 90 here in the commonwealth.
These findings, compiled last fall by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, are based on an in-depth survey that has been conducted annually for nearly a decade. By taking a closer look at just a single 24-hour period, we can get a clearer picture of the true size of a crisis that, between October 2011 and September 2012, took the lives of 25 Kentuckians.
Nearly two weeks ago, Governor Beshear continued a long-standing tradition of recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In his proclamation, he noted that domestic violence costs the United States more than $5.8 billion a year, most of which goes directly to healthcare costs and which is almost certainly under-reported.
This crime cuts across all socio-economic demographics, with one-third of women in Kentucky reporting they have been abused at least once in their lifetimes.
Curbing domestic violence has been an especially important issue for me, both as a legislator and as Attorney General. One of my proudest accomplishments is sponsoring the bill that became “Amanda’s Law,” which is designed to give victims the real-time information they need to feel safe.
In recent years, the General Assembly has taken other steps to try to slow if not stop domestic violence. We have increased training requirements for those who handle these types of cases, for example, and kept insurance companies from discriminating against those who are victims. We made it possible to sue stalkers in civil court, and designed the nation’s first automated victim-notification system, which is known as VINE.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly built on these efforts by creating a new, independent panel to investigate cases in which a child was either killed or severely injured by abuse or neglect; and we tightened human-trafficking laws, further helping those kept against their will.
During Governor Beshear’s news conference this month, we set the next goal for Kentucky: To add us to the list of the 46 other states that already make domestic violence orders (DVOs) available to dating partners.
There is no doubting the need, especially among younger couples who have not married, lived together or had a child together, the current requirements for obtaining a DVO. This also would hopefully have a positive effect on our older adolescents. Unfortunately, a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscored the need to do more; it found that Kentucky and just a handful of other states led the nation in the percentage of high school students who had experienced dating violence.
If you know of anyone who has been abused, don’t hesitate to act. An anonymous report can be filed with the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services hotline at (800) 752-6200. For those who are abused and need someone safe they can turn to, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). Our local shelters are wonderful resources as well. The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association’s website – http://www.kdva.org/ – also has a wealth of information, including a link to make a donation.
For much of our country’s history, domestic violence has been an often ignored crime. Times have changed, thankfully, making it easier for victims to come forward and get help.
Our goal as a nation continues to be twofold: To try to stop domestic violence through deterrence and education and to provide the victims – nearly 50 a minute nationwide – the safety and security they so desperately need. The more we can do for them, the more we as a society benefit.