Domestic violence is a community problem, requires a community solution

  • Saturday, September 13, 2014 8:28pm
  • Opinion

national headlines this week as NFL star Ray Rice was cut by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended from the league indefinitely. The penalties came swiftly after additional video surfaced from a February incident during which Rice was recorded punching his then-fiancee, and dragging her unconscious body from an elevator in Atlantic City.

The incident and nationwide statistics on domestic violence, are appalling. At least 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner according to data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the numbers are even higher: at least 52 percent of women living on the Kenai Peninsula have or will experience domestic violence, according to the the 2013 Alaska Victimization Study conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center and the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault, to which he pleaded not guilty, and was accepted into a pre-trial intervention program to avoid prosecution.

Down the road, with the resources available to him, Rice will have access to counseling and legal help. If he gets some good advice — and follows it — it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him suit up in the NFL next year. For the rest of the population, domestic violence is a much more complicated situation. To escape abuse, victims must frequently give up everything and start over. And abusers, who may or may not find themselves facing legal repercussions, must at some point reintegrate into society.

The pattern of abuse is easy to recognize, victims defend their partners, batters blame the victims and, all-to-often the community refuses to see the obvious until someone is severely hurt, or killed by their abuser. Not only must the community have zero tolerance for domestic violence, it must also work to recognize the signs of abuse and help but the abuser and the victim learn to lead healthier lives.

Education and outreach remain crucial tools in addressing the issue. The abuser and the victim deserve the same kind of comprehensive counseling and education to understand the full implications of their relationship — it’s up to the people around the abusive situation to recognize the signs and step in. Community-based programs, such as the LeeShore Center’s Green Dot campaign, that operate under the premise that anyone has the ability to prevent a potentially violent situation, either by calling the police or speaking up, invite the entire community to become part of the solution.

Looking at the numbers, domestic violence will, at some point, impact our entire community. It will take a continued community effort to change that.

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