Numbers released in a new study paint a startling picture of domestic violence in Cuyahoga County. A report shows that homicides related to domestic violence increased by nearly 50% over the last three years. But some domestic violence experts say the statistics are only a small part of a much bigger picture. 90.3's Renita Jablonski reports.
Renita Jablonski- Judge Ronald Adrine serves in the Cleveland Municipal Court and he's also head of the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee, the group that published the study. He says while the number of homicides is decreasing in Cuyahoga County, the outlook isn't as bright when it comes to domestic violence.
Ronald Adrine- And in that arena we saw that those kinds of homicides actually increased by 46% over the course of the last three years, and that's pretty unsettling, because we really have been feeling pretty good about ourselves because we've put a lot of things in place to try to address and to attack the problem aggressively, to try to see if we can diminish the incident of domestic violence in our community.
RJ- But Adrine says that number wasn't what shocked him most in the report.
RA- And one of the other disturbing things that became very evident and very prominent as a result of this study, and something that we had actually seen over the course of the last couple years as well, but it wasn't as stark as this time, in that none of the people who were victims of homicide in the course of this study period, had had any contact with any of the agencies that you would have expected them to.
RJ- People like Becky Clark are interpreting the study differently. Clark is a grant writer and reporter for the Domestic Violence Center in Cleveland. She says the findings of the Fatality Review Committee are based on only a small piece of the county's domestic violence puzzle.
Becky Clark- They only checked four shelters or domestic violence programs in the city to see if people had registered with information or come to the shelters or looked into batter management when there are more programs than that that provide that in Cleveland. Hotline calls are anonymous which makes it very difficult, almost impossible to track those and decide if a victim did try to call for help and was unable or able to reach someone.
RJ- Clark does point out that while the study was only able to utilize a limited scope of resources, it's a step in the right direction to help the fight of domestic violence victims and their families.
BC- And it proves the point that we need to have the legislative mandate to look at homicides as they happen and to look at repeat offenders, people who are constantly being reported for domestic violence to try and prevent this from becoming what it is, which is a fatality review of old cases.
RJ- Both Clark and Adrine agree that increasing education and awareness of available programs is key to fighting against domestic violence, giving hope and power to victims, like Stacy.
Stacy- In this instance I had no choice because had I not gotten away from him when I did, I could have been hurt severely or even killed.
RJ- Stacy says it's thanks to her city's police department providing her with information on agencies like the Domestic Violence Center that she's alive today.
Stacy- I went to the police department to file a report and what not and it was there that I was informed about Templum House and given numbers to call and from there I went to Parma Hospital where there was, someone else was notified.
RJ- Clark says stories like Stacy's need to be considered to get an accurate view of domestic violence in the area.
BC- I think that domesic violence in Cuyahoga County consists of everybody's efforts and that is the social service agencies, the police, the hospitals, and other organizations.
RJ- The bottom line is there's no simple way of tracking incidents of domestic violence.
RA- You can't say, "okay, here's the template for domestic violence cases and so this is what you look for," because it cuts across all bands, socioeconomic, race, gender even because you know, not only do you have heterosexual couples, but you also have homosexual couples. Age is no indicator, you have young people, you have aged people who are all both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence so there's just no telling until something happens that people have not been living the Ozzie and Harriet, American dream lifestyle.
RJ- In Cleveland, Renita Jablonski, 90.3, 90.3 WCPN.