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One out of four homicides is related to domestic violence in Virginia December 9, 2009

Posted by miguelsouza in 5584.
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By Miguel Souza

One month ago Rihanna decided to break the silence. In an interview with ABC News, the young singer gave some details about what she went through on Feb. 7. “Every time a see it, the whole thing come back to my head,” said Rihanna while talking about the picture that shows her face battered.

While going to her house she was hit by her ex-boyfriend, the also famous singer Chris Brown. The case involving two young, rich and famous celebrities launched domestic violence to the main stage. Nevertheless, domestic violence is an everyday issue for many families. And many times has a fatal ending.


A report released last month by the Virginia Department of Health shows that approximately one out of four homicides is related to violence in a family or intimate partner relationship.

From 1999 to 2007 there were 3,988 homicides in Virginia. 1,232 of them were committed by someone related to the victim: spouse (married or separated), former spouse, current or former boyfriend, girlfriend or same-sex partner, or dating partner.

“In other words, if we were able to eliminate all homicides that were due to family or intimate partner conflict, we would eliminate a fourth of all homicide cases in Virginia,” said Nicole Lee, family and intimate partner homicide surveillance coordinator of the Virginia Department of Health.

A Major Concern

The figures clearly show that domestic violence is no more a domestic issue. It is a public issue and a threat to all Virginias.

“It is a social problem that affects people in different levels and at different stages of their lifes,” said Elvira de la Cruz.

She works at The James House, an organization that provides support, advocacy, and education for people affected by sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

The problem, she said, is that many people have not realized that domestic violence is a real danger for everybody.

“Some people thing that domestic violence only happens in the marriage, but there are many young people who are also victims while they are dating someone,” De la Cruz said.

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In fact, in Virginia the main victims of family and intimate partner homicide are people between 15 and 24. They represent 30.3 percent of all the cases reported from 1999 to 2007. Though, the average age of homicide victims was 35.92 years.

But the problem is not only related to the age of the victim. It is also related to the genre. The figures of the report from the Virginia Department of Health indicate that females “were more likely to die at the hands of an intimate partner”. In some years they represent 58 percent of the victims.

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A Constant Problem

When talking about domestic violence there is always a question. Has it increased or decreased?

If the Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Report were the only data to measure domestic violence, it is possible to say that the figures have gone slightly down and up. But at the end, the situation remains the same.

Beyond that, Leah Bush, chief medical examiner, explains that this report represents a milestone in the understanding of fatal domestic violence in Virginia.

“It is the first report to present nine-years-worth of Virginia data examining victim characteristics and event risk factors,” said Bush in a press release.

With these figures, people who work in different areas of the issue say that the information will help to create and implement prevention strategies.

“The statistics help us to gain a better understanding regarding the prevalence and impact of domestic violence. If we did not have these statistics we would not know that there was a problem and we would not be motivated to develop prevention or intervention activities,” said Lee.

A Big Issue in the City

The family and intimate partner homicide rate the capital of the Commonwealth was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2007.

The rate is the highest in the metro area, compared to Chesterfield (0.8) and Henrico (1) counties.

On one hand, Lee said that that the ability to identify the cases of domestic violence has gotten better. That is why the figures seem to be higher.

“But there are also some social factors that may have an impact,” she said. “The lack of services for victims and abusers may mean that more abuse victims are remaining in their relationship longer; thus increasing their risk of fatal injury.”

De la Cruz said that helping the victims of abuse is a key element to avoid fatal cases.

“Sometimes the victim does not know how to get away of the situation. Providing shelter or any kind of help is important to convince the victim to take a decision that can save a life,” said.

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The economic situation may be another factor to have a high family and intimate partner homicide rate in the city of Richmond.

“The additional stress of the changing economic circumstances may have an impact as well,” said Lee.

At the end, there are combinations of factors that may be involved with domestic violence. The most important is that with accurately data, it would be easier to find a way to look for a solution.

EXPLANATION BOX
Source: Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Report 2007, release by the Virginia Department of Health.
Method: I use the information of the report. It was in a PDF document. I exported the data to an Excel archive and make some calculations. I was able to calculate the percentage increase/decrease from one year to another; to find out who where more likely to be victims of family and intimate partner homicide (according to the age); and calculate the incidence of this kind of homicides in relationship with all the homicides.

Note: In en email response, Nicole Lee, family and intimate partner homicide surveillance coordinator of the Virginia Department of Health, explained that there are many definitions of domestic violence. Though, all of the family and intimate partner homicides are considered domestic violence. “The only exception-she said- would be a few of the Child Homicide by Caregiver deaths. Some of these children were not killed by family members; however, the dynamics behind the deaths are similar and therefore included in the Family and Intimate Partner homicide number.”

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