Our Widget:: Why Don't They Just Leave?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Spike

The NYT carries an excellent story by Ian Urbina (click here) on an increase in domestic violence homicides in Philadelphia this year and broadens the scope to report on the nationwide domestic violence increase and simulaneous service cutbacks. In Philadelphia, DV homicides surged by 67% (to a total of 38) in 2009, at a time when overall homicides dropped by 9 percent.

On Monday, the Times ran two stories, which -- between the lines -- show a similar trend here in NYC. First was the report of a record-low homicide rate in the city for the year. But on the same day, the paper reported a marked increase in the number of "family offenses" in the court -- an increase from about 65,000 to 75,000 cases (click here).

Many observers are attributing the increase in domestic violence cases to the recession. These past two years of economic calamity seem to be correlated with a big jump in family violence around the country -- a trend which has yet to be officially confirmed by national data, but which is very apparent in numerous reports coming in from everywhere. We first discussed these developments about a year ago (click here for the previous blog).

This deeply troubling new development comes after many years when domestic violence seemed to be trending downward. There's some debate about why the decrease occurred. Some argue that tougher DV enforcement -- mandatory arrest in most states, no drop prosecution of offenders -- played a role, along with increased support for survivors. Others argue that the decrease can be attributed to demographic trends, such as couples getting married at an older age and an increase in the divorce rate, as well as to the overall drop in violent crime.

If this year's trend continues, let's hope that it's at least a wake up call for those in government, academia and the media who have lost interest in the domestic violence issue. We're fascinated by domestic violence as it pertains to Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods, and Rhianna, but attention flags when it comes to seriously examining the tragic persistence of family violence in our society.

Addendum/Jan. 3. I missed some excellent reporting on the nationwise increase in domestic abuse. Philip N. Cohen blogs on the Philadelphia report and others, citing this strong report by Christina Davdison for the Atlantic.