Our Opinion: Domestic violence affects people and communities

Domestic violence threatens individuals and ravages a community.

A yarn bombing last week in the downtown area of Jefferson City was designed to call attention to the scourge of domestic violence.

The creative and whimsical yarn wrappings to raise awareness about a serious problem were conducted by volunteers from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service (RACS), which provides shelter and resources to victims of domestic violence.

In a series of editorials, we intend to share information provided by RACS professionals that addresses the magnitude of the problem, what people can do individually and collectively to break the cycle and the need to share awareness and understanding of this complex issue.

First, the problem is pervasive — probably more pervasive than many people believe.

Last year, more than 1,873 incidents of domestic violence were reported in the RACS’ nine-county service area. We are alarmed by that number, particular since it represents only a fraction of the problem. Statistically, domestic violence reports represent between one in five to one in seven incidents.

In terms of reported incidents in 2012, Cole County’s 540 reports ranked 14th highest among the state’s 114 counties, according to the Missouri Crime Reporting Supplemental Domestic Violence Incident Report.

Also last year, RACS sheltered 226 victims of domestic violence, counseled more than 600 people and fielded 1,100 hotline calls.

In terms of gender, 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.

In addition, between 30 and 60 percent of offenders also abuse children in the household.

The cycle of abuse snares not only young victims of violence, but children who witness abuse. Professionals cite witnessing violent behavior by parents or caretakers as the strongest risk factor for continuing the cycle through generations.

Next: What can be done, individually and collectively, to break the cycle of domestic violence.

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