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Domestic-Violence Prevention: Celebrating Progress, Marking Lives Lost

The state legislature added $1 million to the Ohio budget for domestic-violence services. (AdobeStock)
The state legislature added $1 million to the Ohio budget for domestic-violence services. (AdobeStock)
October 1, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins today, and advocates are gathering at the Ohio statehouse to reflect on progress made to help survivors while remembering lives lost.

The Ohio Domestic Violence Network is honoring Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, with the Croucher Family Award for Outstanding Leadership for her efforts to include $1 million in the state budget for domestic-violence services. Executive director of the network Mary O'Doherty said it's the first time such funding has been included in the state's general fund.

"Representative Lanese opened a door for us. We will be working with her to increase the state funding that flows to DV services,” O’Doherty said. “So it's our opportunity to rally the troops and to thank Rep. Lanese, but also to say we've got a lot more work to do."

An annual list of domestic violence fatalities in Ohio also will be released, showing that in the year ending on July 1, 2019, at least 81 lives were lost. Of those who died, 53 were domestic violence victims, including 41 women and 12 men. And in 25% of incidents ending in fatality, a child was present on the scene.

Shelly Bell, Linking Systems Project coordinator with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, compiled the fatality data, which she said is an important tool in understanding the issue and advancing long-term solutions. She spotted a few overarching themes.

"Guns are still a major issue in terms of domestic-violence fatalities,” Bell said. “In 73% of fatalities, the deceased were killed by guns. In at least 35% of cases - and we know it was very likely more - the victim had left or was in the process of leaving the relationship. This supports what we already know: that leaving is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence."

The data also showed in 1-in-3 fatalities, the perpetrator had prior domestic-violence charges or convictions. Bell noted overall fatalities are down from previous years - which could be related to increased survivor support and increased support for systems that keep batterers accountable through federal Victims Of Crime Act funding.

"We can't be certain, but it is possible that the increase in VOCA over the past five years may have positively impacted Ohio domestic-violence fatality numbers this year,” she said. “Unfortunately, we have just experienced VOCA cuts, and one very much hopes that this will not contribute to higher fatality numbers next year."

The network also will highlight its clemency program, which focuses on freeing women incarcerated for killing their abusers in self-defense. The data shows that in 83% of cases where a woman killed a man, there was a past history of the woman having been abused by the man.

Disclosure: The Ohio Domestic Violence Network contributes to our fund for reporting on Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - OH