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Foreclosures, Unemployment Keep Advocates on Watch for Domestic Abuse

June 9, 2008

Denver, CO - When families face greater financial pressure, law enforcement and women's advocates often see an increase in cases of domestic violence. Denise Washington, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says there are no statistics that specifically link today's tougher economic times to cases of abuse, but sharp hikes in the numbers of foreclosures and in unemployment statistics are warning signs. She believes such problems also can make it even harder to report - or to leave - a bad situation.

"That's especially if you have children, or you're not working, so you don't have the financial wherewithal to leave - maybe you don't have a car, maybe you're new to the city."

Washington says friends, family members and neighbors should be alert to the signs of physical abuse, including bruises or controlling behavior by a partner, and should offer to help. However, she warns that anyone in an abusive relationship should be careful about looking for help on the Internet, especially if their abuser is technology-savvy.

"Even if you hit the 'delete' button, or the 'delete history' button, there are ways to tell you have visited a site. Potentially, that can be tracked - so just be very, very careful."

Washington says finding a safe place, such as a women's shelter, is the most important step a person can take when being abused. Other alternatives are to go to a public library or church, from where you could call police; or have a trusted friend do the research or make calls on your behalf. There's also a National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE.

Colorado is one of only two states, she adds, that does not have state funding for its domestic violence safe house and shelter system.

"The state of Colorado has no money in its budget to fund domestic violence services - and that, to me, is a crime."

Lawmakers have said budget constraints since the state's fiscal crisis five years ago have made it difficult to fund many social programs. However, police say they're starting new programs to train officers, to continue to improve their response to abuse cases.

Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - CO