VOICES: Domestic violence has become a pandemic within a pandemic

Jane Keiffer is the Executive Director of Artemis Center. She received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Kentucky and her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Toledo.  Jane has been an employee of Artemis Center for the past 25 years, serving at the director for the last 5 years.  She is qualified to served as an expert witness on the area of domestic violence in court proceedings. Jane participates on several committees in the community, advancing best practices for working with survivors of domestic violence and their children.  She provides numerous trainings to the community which includes police officers, prosecutors, victim advocates, and many other professionals on intimate partner violence.  Jane volunteers for Hospice by baking sweet treats for residents. Jane is a passionate advocate for equality and human rights.
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Jane Keiffer is the Executive Director of Artemis Center. She received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Kentucky and her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Toledo. Jane has been an employee of Artemis Center for the past 25 years, serving at the director for the last 5 years. She is qualified to served as an expert witness on the area of domestic violence in court proceedings. Jane participates on several committees in the community, advancing best practices for working with survivors of domestic violence and their children. She provides numerous trainings to the community which includes police officers, prosecutors, victim advocates, and many other professionals on intimate partner violence. Jane volunteers for Hospice by baking sweet treats for residents. Jane is a passionate advocate for equality and human rights.

With the Gabby Petito tragedy, domestic violence is back in the news. In fact, domestic violence has become the pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic. During “normal” times, one in four women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. During “normal” times, a woman is shot and killed by her spouse or intimate partner every 16 hours. With the onset of COVID, Artemis Center has seen an increase in domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking cases both locally and nationally.

ExploreDomestic violence deaths increased during pandemic

Although Petito was strangled, more often firearms are an abuser’s weapon of choice. Guns can be used for intimidation or coercion. The mere presence of a gun creates a power imbalance in the relationship and keeps a victim in fear of what could happen if they attempt to leave their partner.

Domestic violence is about gaining and maintaining power and control over an intimate partner. An abuser utilizes a variety of tactics to control and coerce their partner. Tactics include physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, and financial abuse, threats and reproductive coercion. Abusers often “gaslight” and ridicule their partners, making victims feel foolish for their thoughts and behaviors and convincing them that the abuse is their fault. Isolation is a highly effective tactic, abusers keep survivors from family, friends and community.

You may wonder, “Why does a victim stay in an abusive relationship?” Victims stay for many reasons: love, fear, finances, vows, children, and lack of resources. In 40 to 60% of families where a batterer abuses their partner, they also abuse the children. If the abuser is the children’s biological parent, the victim may choose to stay rather than take the risk that the abuser will get parenting time alone with the children. A victim, usually the mother, will take almost any amount of abuse to keep their children safe.

Leaving an abuser is dangerous and can be fatal. Sometimes abusers will decide, “If I can’t have you no one will.” 75% of all female intimate partner homicides occur within the first three months of separation.

Domestic violence can be fatal for abusers, as well. Locally, 25% of domestic violence-related homicides have been homicide/suicides, and all of them were perpetrated by men. Keep in mind that firearms are used in more than half of all suicides among males.

Most victims do leave eventually. Leaving an abusive relationship is a process that happens in stages. While the vast majority of victims never go to shelter, in the short term they still need safety, time, and opportunity to make long term arrangements while fleeing their abusers.

Help is available. Artemis Center operates a 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline in Montgomery County. Our advocates are always available to assist victims who need support and safety planning. We work to ensure that each victim has a personalized safety plan that is unique to their situation.

ExploreThe effects of domestic violence last a lifetime

We offer supportive services, such as support groups and therapy for adults and children to promote long term healing. Our advocates accompany victims to both criminal trials and civil protection order hearings, providing support and information.

Domestic violence crosses all socio-economic, class, race and religious demographics. While Petito was white, Black, Latinx, and Native American women bear a disproportionately greater risk of gun death at the hands of their abuser than non-Latinx white women. Domestic violence also affects the LGBTQ Community at the same rates as their heterosexual counterparts.

Domestic violence is a community concern, not a private matter. The violence follows victims to work, worship, daycare centers, schools, grocery stores and on vacation. In the Petito case, domestic violence was part of #VanLife. Artemis is not alone in our efforts to end domestic violence. We collaborate with numerous community organizations to remove barriers for victims and increase their safety. At the state level, the Ohio Supreme Court recently issued new forms to facilitate the removal of an abuser’s guns as part of the Civil Protection Order process. We must hold abusers accountable for their actions and keep guns out of their hands. We must help victims, not blame them for the abuse abusers inflict on them. You can help. If you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, refer them to the Domestic Violence Hotline at 937-461-HELP (4357).

Jane Keiffer is the Executive Director of Artemis Center.

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