Domestic violence cases are growing, violent attacks getting worse, area shelters say

XENIA — Nearly three weeks ago, the Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County handled a domestic violence case that, were it not for the intervention of a neighbor, would have likely ended in a murder-suicide.

Domestic violence cases are on the rise in Greene County and other area cities, and shelters that help women in cases say the violent attacks are also getting worse.

The Greene County Domestic Relations Court has reported a spike in domestic violence cases, and stalking protection orders, which the court administers, are close to double what they were last year, said Court Administrator Patricia Campbell.

As of July 21, the Domestic Relations Court handled 139 domestic violence cases in Greene County, up from 117 last year, and 108 in 2020. Additionally, the court has issued 81 civil protection orders, compared to 49 on July 21, 2021.

Other area courts have experienced similar increases, Campbell said.

“The domestic violence cases are up, but the stalking protection orders - which in a lot of counties are done under the general division because they involve non-family members - are really at the greatest increase,” she said.

While it is difficult to pin down an exact reason for the spike, according to Campbell, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a major factor.

The era of COVID-19 was a heyday for domestic abusers. Dubbed the “shadow pandemic” by the United Nations, violence against women and children increased globally during the pandemic lockdown. In Ohio, 131 people were killed in domestic violence incidents from July 2020 through June 2021, a 20% increase over the same time period last year, and a 62% increase from two years ago, according to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.

However, just because pandemic restrictions are gone in 2022, doesn’t mean abuse victims are able to get away. Even when choosing to seek help, victims will return to and leave their abusers seven times over the course of eight years on average before they escape for good.

“Domestic violence is all about an imbalance of power and control,” said Debbie Matheson, executive director of the Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County. “They make life so unbearable that victims say ‘Fine, we’re going to be complacent and do whatever you want to do,’ until they realize ‘If I don’t do something different, I will be seriously injured or die, or my children will be seriously injured or die.”

On the other side, victims fleeing domestic violence face real, tangible barriers to restarting a life without their abusive partner, including housing and employment. The ongoing housing shortage means that even those who are approved for subsidized housing often can’t get it, Matheson said.

“The housing inventory - particularly the affordable housing - in our community is so desperately small, that even if they have vouchers and can get out into the community, you’re still facing the small space of housing options,” Matheson said.

Additionally, leaving doesn’t always mean safety.

“Civil protection order is a great tool for survivors to have so if they are trying to separate from a perpetrator, to put that boundary down. A protection order can tell the systems, ‘this person isn’t supposed to be anywhere around me.’ But it’s not foolproof,” Matheson said.

Greene County’s domestic relations court has applied for a backlog reduction grant offered by the Office of Criminal Justice Services to handle the influx of cases. The grant would hire one additional staff member and is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Victims of domestic violence have options to escape their situations, Matheson said.

“A lot of our work is making sure victims know there is a way out. The hotline is available, our advocates want to give a listening ear. Even though the numbers are higher, the systems are ready,” she said.

How to get help

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, call:

Artemis Center: 937-461-4357

Dayton YWCA: 937-222-SAFE (7233)

Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County: 937-372-4552 or 937-426-2334, or a 24 Hour Crisis Text Line: 937-347-5917

National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-7233.

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