October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. After being inundated by news stories about athletes, politicians and musicians accused (or convicted) of domestic violence, I believe that it’s time we all took a stand and advocated on behalf of our mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters and grandchildren once and for all.

What is domestic violence?

The Tennessee Districts Attorneys General Conference defined domestic violence as “a pattern of controlling behaviors aimed at gaining power in order to control an intimate partner.” It’s a solid definition, but the word “intimate” can be confusing. Legally, domestic violence is the physical, emotional, sexual or psychological threat of harm or act of harm against a family or household member.

How bad is it, really, in Tennessee?

According to the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee ranks 6th in the list of states where men are most likely to murder women. There were more than 77,000 reported cases of domestic violence in our state in 2013, but there could be many more: the National Coalition against Domestic Violence claims that most cases go unreported. Of those 77,000+ cases, only about 59% resulted in an arrest. There were 86 fatalities – 13 of them were children under the age of 18.

In Maryville in particular, there were 166 reported victims. The crimes against them are listed as:

  • Murder: 1 victim
  • Aggravated assault: 16 victims
  • Simple Assault: 139 victims
  • Intimidation: 5 victims
  • Forcible rape: 4 victims
  • Stalking: 1 victim

Of the 166 reported cases, 122 were cleared. That’s around a 92% solve rate, and it doesn’t include numbers regarding how many Order of Protection were sought and issued – but I know we can do even better.

Becoming an advocate for change and safety

We can all do better for the victims of domestic violence. By supporting local shelters and crisis centers, we can become advocates for the children and adults who need us the most. The Haven House is located right here in Maryville, but there are small and large organizations throughout Tennessee and the country that need our help, too. The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence in Nashville offers programs victims all over the state, and the Domestic Violence Hotline offers a supportive voice and hand to anyone who calls.

If you or your loved one is a victim of domestic violence, I hope you’ll reach out to a person or organization for help. If you want to ask questions, you can call me at any time; I promise to keep our discussion confidential.

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