Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article.
Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years since Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder, domestic violence continues to be a lethal problem in the United States.
One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This translates to roughly 1.3 million women each year who are assaulted by an intimate partner. Sadly, this number only reflects the victims who report abuse to the police.
So what’s being done to combat the epidemic? Fortunately, proactive initiatives are being taken throughout the U.S. to help eliminate domestic abuse.
Massachusetts House passes tighter domestic violence legislation
After a high-profile domestic murder shook the Boston area last year, House Speaker Robert DeLeo was inspired to take action. Jared Remy (son of Red Sox broadcaster and ex-ballplayer Jerry Remy) recently pled guilty to murdering his girlfriend after a long history of violence and abuse.
“I feel we came up with a piece of legislation that I think will probably make us the strongest in the country, in terms of domestic violence,” said DeLeo.
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As is, he says the current domestic violence laws in Massachusetts represent some of the best in the country.
“[F]or Jen Martel, the victim of Jared Remy, they weren’t good enough,” said DeLeo.
The new billseeks harsher punishments for repeat offenders and creates a distinct charge for strangulation and suffocation. According to DeLeo, these types of violent acts are statistically linked to an abuser being more likely to attempt a future murder.
The legislation also provides for enhanced resources so that records and information can be shared across jurisdictions. This way, all parties involved in a case will have access to the offender’s complete history. New victim services, like employment leave for victims, are also on the bill.
DeLeo hopes the legislation will be ironed out by the end of July.
Staten Island launches anti-stalking initiative
A new program from Mayor de Blasio’s office is aiming to increase stalking arrests and prosecutions on Staten Island. The first-ever initiative of its kind is being carried out in conjunction with the NYPD and the Richmond County District Attorney’s office.
“Stalking is actually a high risk factor for lethality in intimate partner violence cases,” said Elizabeth Dank, director of the Staten Island Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT).
According to Dank, over half of all female homicide victims report stalking to the police before being killed by their intimate partner.
“We really see this program as a homicide prevention program that’s looking to intervene in these stalking cases before there’s escalation to either physical abuse or homicide,” she said.
The initiative was developed as an extension to the DVRT, which has been on Staten Island for several years. Dank says that during this time, stalking was the number one reported abusive behavior. The new anti-stalking measures will train law enforcement and other staff to help them understand and better recognize what stalking really looks like.
The program will also improve how incidents of stalking are recorded and will connect victims with the vital services they need.
Nonprofits continue driving awareness
Tightening existing laws isn’t the only way to improve upon the country’s domestic violence problem. Grassroots efforts can be a tenable powerhouse for raising both awareness and much-needed funds. Large-scale charity events continue to shine a light on domestic abuse – and the funds raised can be substantial when it comes to combating the epidemic.
Last year, a domestic violence nonprofit organization called Safe Passage raised over $60,000 for the cause with just one event. The Los Angeles-based group helps women and children find new homes and employment while fleeing abuse.
On the other coast, a Tampa Bay domestic violence organization called CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) is hosting a fundraising event in September with sponsorships ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 for the cause.
Carole Crist, wife of Governor Charlie Crist, is taking an active role as the event’s organizer.
“CASA is a nonprofit organization that’s close to my heart,” said Crist. “I believe in their mission and understand its importance.”
Carole Crist is a longtime philanthropist whose husband is running for a second bid as Florida governor.Providing refuge, crisis intervention, advocacy, professional training and community outreach, CASA works to help break the silence of domestic violence victims.