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Ventura County Perspective | PERSPECTIVE ON DOMESTIC

We Must Do More to Help the Victims

More than 1,700 cases were filed locally last year. Even more went unreported.

October 11, 1998|JUDY MIKELS | Judy Mikels chairs the Ventura County Board of Supervisors

There is a scourge bearing down on American families, destroying lives and hindering our nation's future: the ever-present, heinous and often unreported crime of domestic violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. On Tuesday I will ask the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to add our voice to the chorus of civilized Americans decrying this hideous crime.

The statistics are startling and the impacts frightening. According to 1994 Justice Department statistics, more than 600,000 women and nearly 50,000 men are victims of domestic abuse each year. Most do not report the crime; even those who do often drop charges and continue to suffer.

Experts say most people who abuse their spouses also abuse their children. A child growing up as a witness or victim of domestic violence is more likely to become an abuser as well.

Each year, at least $4 billion is spent on medical costs stemming from domestic violence. The business community shoulders another $100 million in lost wages, productivity and sick leave.

According to the Ventura County district attorney's office, 1,782 domestic violence cases were filed last year in our county. Unfortunately, even more were never reported. Although the number of cases filed since 1993 has increased, I sincerely pray that this reflects more reporting rather than more incidents. And I commend the district attorney's office for its nearly 90% conviction rate in such cases.

Beyond the statistics, there is a human face to domestic violence. The victims are individuals who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to atrocities that defy description. Too many times, they end up dead because there was no intervention and too few opportunities to get out of a dangerous situation.

As human beings, we must care what happens to our neighbors. Our turning away helps the abuser and does harm to the victims. People should be appalled that the United States has more animal shelters than battered women's shelters.

Individuals, nonprofit groups, churches, business leaders and government all have a clear responsibility to join the battle to prevent domestic abuse. The men, women and children who are victims deserve nothing less than a commitment to prevent abuse and severely punish those who do commit acts of domestic violence.

We can and must do more. With existing resources directed toward protection and prevention and with our collective commitment, the seed to reducing domestic violence can be planted.

Victims must know it is not their fault. Children need positive role models and better examples of appropriate and civilized behavior. I would not be so bold as to blame popular culture alone, but when a child grows up seeing thousands of murders and beatings on television and in movies each year, an impression is left. There are even video games featuring graphic violence, some with men fighting and killing women. I shudder to think about the type of society we will become if the graphic depiction of violence present in popular culture numbs our children to physical violence.

I encourage you all to be aware and informed about the signs of abuse and to be willing to open your hearts to the victims every day.

If you are a victim or know someone who is, please get the help that is available. In Ventura County, Interface's 24-hour hotline offers the resources needed to help. Call them at (800) 339-9597.

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