It’s a scourge upon the earth — incidents of domestic violence crimes have skyrocketed during COVID. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month —from the famous to the everyday person, the pandemic has wrecked havoc for many families and couples, and it’s not hard to understand why. Factors such as increased unemployment for men, pronounced financial insecurity, partners being confined at home for long periods of time, poor coping mechanisms, and increased drug and alcohol use have all played a significant role.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, domestic violence is physical violence, sexual violence, stalking or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. I want to add in financial abuse is also part of domestic violence ... it’s one of the top reasons that victims don’t leave their abuser. This crime is not limited to traditional families/partnerships, as the numbers have also increased in LGBTQ communities. No one is immune regardless of social status, income or race, although women of color suffer from domestic violence at a higher rate than their white counterparts.
This past month alone, headlines from around the world show this disturbing trend is not unique to the United States. In Kenya, two-time World Championship bronze medalist Agnes Tirop was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband.
The famous are no different. Rap star Tyga was arrested for felony domestic violence following an altercation with his ex-girlfriend at his Bel-Air mansion.
A young attorney in Atlanta, Courtney Cox, was allegedly killed by the man she was dating. Locally, 39-year-old Roshanda S. Willis of Cambridge was allegedly beaten to death by her boyfriend because of financial problems, but there had already been a history of domestic abuse by Dion D. Ennals before she was murdered.
Similar reports of other abuse and murders due to domestic violence are endless and speak to a lack of emotional control by partners who themselves often have a history of domestic violence, and often in the background of victims as well who often fail to report abuse or refuse to press charges for fear of provoking even more violence. It’s not unusual for police to mishandle situations appropriately by not pressing charges against abusers when there is clear evidence something is very wrong or simply doesn’t make sense. Perhaps most importantly, authorities should not question victims while their abusers are around.
Law enforcement, the court system and employers are in need of continuous training about how to spot and properly handle domestic violence situations before they result in severe injury or death. These women are/were vibrant mothers, daughters, sisters and aunties who are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Many return to their abusers which in itself is an additional hinderance, usually due to the trauma they are suffering, often preventing them from making the best decisions for themselves, and their families.
The key is effective and efficient prosecution, as well as providing a comprehensive support system for victims, along with mandatory sentences whether or not the victim wants to prosecute as some, but not enough states do, and mandatory counseling for abusers to avoid re-occurrence.
This week U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume and his colleagues in the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2119, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2021 (FCPSA) to provide assistance for domestic violence survivors.
“I voted in favor of the FVPSA because I believe that survivors of every color, class and creed should be given federally-funded support. The recent uptick in domestic violence reports must be addressed by increasing prevention efforts and providing the financial resources to leave abusive situations. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act on this critical measure to ensure victims receive the support they need,” Mfume said.
We urge the Senate to take this matter up quickly and pass it without fail.
The CDC crime statistics show that 16 percent of homicides are perpetrated by a partner. A staggering 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. We also need to see community, religious and civic organizations on the Eastern Shore and beyond to advocate for protections and support.
If you are suffering from domestic abuse, or know someone who is, there are several ways to get help. Call 800-799-7233, or text “START” to 88788. You can also chat online by going to thehotline.org.