Re: “Without Warning” (GT, 7/14): According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men will experience physical violence at the hands of their partner. When the pandemic began, Monarch Services projected an increase in domestic violence due to economic stressors on families, COVID-related shelter in place orders and isolation from community. As predicted, the need for our services (specifically domestic violence-related services) escalated significantly.
In fact, our service numbers nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. While we reported providing 15,740 services to clients in 2019, we provided approximately 27,448 in 2020, a 75 percent increase in services in just one year. These services include counseling, shelter, emergency financial aid, transportation, support groups and more. We specifically provided emergency shelter and motel vouchers to over twice as many clients, reporting 43 shelter clients from 2019 and 107 clients in 2020. Our number of crisis line calls more than tripled, with 1,661 calls reported in 2019 and 5,792 in 2020.
These numbers only narrowly represent the actual number of those experiencing abuse, as domestic violence is highly underreported. In fact, as many as 50 percent of domestic violence incidents go unreported and victims do not typically seek support until experiencing violence an average of seven times. Tragically, in the past ten months alone, our county has also mourned four femicides that are known to be a result of domestic abuse.
Although individuals of every gender can be victims of domestic violence homicide, women are disproportionately murdered by their intimate partners in comparison with other genders. Using terms like “murder” and “homicide” ignores this distinctive type of violence disproportionately perpetrated against women. Patriarchal power structures and traditional ideas about gender and power often influence men to murder women at disproportionately high rates. Referring to these horrific murders as domestic violence femicides is important, as our community must understand the true dynamics behind this specific type of violence in order to constructively act to prevent it from happening in the future. We must work to understand the cycle of violence and conditions that keep individuals (disproportionately women) in unhealthy and dangerous relationships.
Domestic violence has never been a simple phenomenon to understand, but the pandemic made it increasingly complex. Here are some ways each of us can help support victims of domestic violence: Believe and validate survivors and ensure they have a support system; check on your loved ones and neighbors and help them plan in case they need to flee to safety; use social media to raise awareness around domestic and sexual violence and ask your followers to do the same; challenge toxic masculinity and machismo culture that perpetuates violence; don’t judge, victim blame or shame survivors; don’t make decisions for the survivors–offer options and allow the survivor to make their own choices.
Domestic violence impacts us all as a community, and if we each do our part, we can stop this cycle of violence for us and for future generations. We stand with the families and loved ones of all domestic violence femicide and homicide victims and encourage individuals currently experiencing domestic violence to seek help. If you, a friend or neighbor, or a loved one is experiencing abuse, please call our 24-hour confidential, bilingual crisis line at 888-900-4232 today to seek help. Remember you are not alone.
DELPHINE BURNS | MONARCH SERVICES, SANTA CRUZ
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