Domestic violence still a problem

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
Editor's Note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is the first story in a series on domestic violence.
In the time that it takes you to read the first sentence of this story, another woman in the United States has been beaten by her husband or boyfriend.
According to information from the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a woman is battered every seven seconds in this country. An estimated 4 million are assaulted by their husband or boyfriend each year.
Some may think that domestic violence is a problem in other states such as Florida or California or in big cities such as New York or Dallas, but the problem is wide-spread, affecting lives in every city and every county.
Tennessee is not immune to this treacherous form of abuse and ranks fifth in the nation for the number of women murdered by men. Approximately 62 percent of the women murdered in this state were killed by their intimate partner, according to information from the TCADSV, which is higher than the national average of 42 percent. Of those women who were killed by their partner, 74 percent were killed with guns.
This is not a problem found only in cities like Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis. Carter County, Elizabethton and the entire Northeast Tennessee region experience domestic violence as well.
In Carter County last year there were 185 reported cases of some form of domestic violence, including assault, aggravated assault, stalking, rape, incest, statutory rape and intimidation, and 116 people were arrested on domestic violence charges, according to the 2002 crime statistics report recently released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
In Elizabethton last year, there were 125 reported cases of domestic violence, including assault, aggravated assault and stalking and intimidation, and 38 people were arrested on domestic violence charges, according to the TBI report.
Washington County had 631 reported cases of domestic violence. Johnson City had 441 reported incidents. More than 680 incidents of domestic violence were reported in Sullivan County, including two murders. Bristol, Tenn., saw more than 200 domestic violence cases reported. Kingsport reported 460 cases of domestic violence, including one murder. There were 113 reported cases of domestic violence in Unicoi County and 62 incidents of domestic violence in Johnson County.
Despite the fact that domestic violence crimes are decreasing across the state of Tennessee, Kathy England-Walsh, executive director of the TCADSV, said that she feels the crime is still a problem for the state. "I do think that violence against women is an increasing problem," she said. "I am encouraged when I see how many services and programs there are and how far we have come. We have made some advances but we still have a way to go until our culture has no tolerance for this kind of abuse."
One hurdle the battle against domestic violence must clear is how the crime, and its victims, are viewed by society, England-Walsh said. "So often the community places the blame on the victim and says, 'Well, why didn't she just leave', or, 'My husband would only have to hit me one time before I would leave', and they focus on the behavior of the victim," she said. "We need to shift that focus on the behavior of the batterer."
The TCADSV is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, according to England-Walsh, and the organization has evolved over the past two decades. When it began, TCADSV offered five domestic violence and rape crisis centers across the state. Now the group works with 60 such centers.