Editorial: Domestic violence remains out of control and in need of focused community attention

Jul. 23, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

The problem of violence against women is not abating. It remains a serious domestic concern in our society, a crime often unreported, and when it is, one can see the system appears stacked against the victim.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Centers for Disease Control report that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and one in six women will be raped. A little over half of these rapes will be perpetrated against girls under the age of 18.

“What these statistics don’t tell but the upcoming hearing on the economic impact of violence against women will show is that while it may be a percentage of the population that is violated, it is 100 percent of the citizens of Tennessee that are affected. Violence against women is not only a women’s issue, it affects us all,” said Phyllis Thompson, director of the Women’s Studies Program at East Tennessee State University. A study by the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, released in 2006, revealed more than $174 million in reported costs caused by domestic violence in Tennessee.

The council has embarked on a statewide campaign to get information about the cost of violent crime in Tennessee communities. It will hold its ninth and final public hearing on Violence Against Women July 31 in Johnson City.

Elliott Moore, council member and vice president of community and government relations for Mountain States Health Alliance, rightly said, “These crimes reach every corner of the state. Our communities are paying an immense, but unseen price because of violence perpetrated against women, and we’re working hard to bring that burden into the sunlight. Better understanding the problem will help us to build a community-wide response and make the necessary decisions to stop the cycle of violence.”

The results of the 2013 public hearings will be combined with statewide surveys, focus groups and a literature review to round out data gathering for the TECW’s full report on this subject, which will be released to the public at the Tennessee Women’s Economic Summit in Nashville on Oct. 27 and 28. It’s not going to paint a pleasant picture of the problem in this state. Only when society — from homes to law enforcement to the judicial system — takes this issue seriously and with focused attention, will we see some change. Until then, let the unsettling statistics sink in.