Domestic violence deaths increased during pandemic

Project Woman holds a candlelight vigil annually in October to show their support for the victims of domestic violence and raise awareness of the issue. BILL LACKEY/STAFF Bill Lackey/Staff
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Project Woman holds a candlelight vigil annually in October to show their support for the victims of domestic violence and raise awareness of the issue. BILL LACKEY/STAFF Bill Lackey/Staff

The number of Ohioans killed through domestic violence increased during the pandemic.

There were 131 people fatalities from July 2020 through June 2021, which is 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’s sixth annual count. The data includes 85 victims and 46 perpetrators who died.

Miranda Armstead, rural advocate at YWCA Dayton, said while there might not be a large increase in the amount of calls the organization received on its hotline during the pandemic, more people have been calling about lethal situations.

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She said people calling about these situations before the pandemic may have had more situations when they left the home and had a reprieve or were around other people.

“But then, COVID happened in it shut all that down, and so they don’t have anywhere to go outside of their home,” Armstead said.

Additionally, whenever there’s a local disaster, domestic violence typically increases amid the additional stressors and triggers. Audrey Starr, also with the YWCA Dayton, said the organization has seen a 30% increase in people reaching the organization online.

“Pre-pandemic, we would actually see a jump in hotline calls first thing Monday morning, with the abuser had left the home to go to work. And so when that’s not happening, we have seen a jump in people reaching out over email, social media direct messaging, to the tune of about 30% increase in the last year,” Starr said.

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Young victims

Statewide, 15 young victims were killed, which the the Ohio Domestic Violence Network said is the largest yearly number of children to die in domestic violence fatalities since it began counting six years ago.

“Ohio’s domestic violence fatalities strike a resounding chord of tragedy in the hearts of Ohioans year after year,” the network’s Policy Director and Staff Attorney Micaela Deming said in a statement. “But this year’s dramatic increase in the deaths of Ohio youth is truly shocking.”

Two of the young victims were killed by their older male partners in fatal dating violence incidents. In two separate incidents, a man with a history of domestic violence shot and killed his or his girlfriend’s two young children. In three separate cases, a father shot and killed his wife and all of their children in their family home.

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Children were at the scene in 16 additional cases, according to the network’s report.

Columbus-based Ohio Domestic Violence Network released the fatality count at its annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month event.

The fatalities, occurring between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, were compiled from media reports and information provided by the network’s 75 member programs.

Policy for change

The network reported that this year at least six incidents in its report involved a domestic violence perpetrator with pending criminal charges related to domestic violence, saying the Ohio General Assembly needs to reform bail to protect domestic violence survivors.

“These deaths, including both the victim and the abuser, took place when the criminal justice system had been alerted to the danger and had an opportunity to intervene,” Deming said.

Starr said the YWCA Dayton also supports Ohio Senate Bill 90, which proposes making strangling a felony. Advocates say strangulation also is considered a red flag raising the risk of later domestic violence homicide.

Awareness

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, local advocacy organizations are urging that people can push for change by volunteering and donating, as well as taking time to get informed about domestic violence.

Jane Keiffer, executive director of the Artemis Center, said it is important to believe people when they say they’ve experienced domestic violence and to learn what domestic violence looks like.

“You can be involved just by understanding the dynamics of domestic violence. Meaning, when people say ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ you understand that it’s not just as simple as leaving that makes domestic violence stop,” Keiffer said.


By the numbers: Ohio domestic violence

Between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021,

  • 85 deceased victims and 46 deceased perpetrators, 34% of cases involved a perpetrator suicide
  • At least 20 perpetrators were previously charged or convicted of domestic violence
  • 121 people were killed or injured with guns
  • 18% of cases involved children at the scene
  • In at least 27% of fatality cases, the victim of intimate partner violence had ended or was ending the relationship
  • No law enforcement officers on duty were killed by a batterer for the second time since 2015

Source: Ohio Domestic Violence Network

How to get help

In the event of an emergency, call 911.

In the Dayton area, call the Artemis Domestic Violence Center’s 24-hour hotline at 937-461-HELP (4357) or the YWCA Dayton’s 24-hour hotline at 937-222-SAFE (7233). The hotlines also can be a resource for loves ones and community members seeking information.

In Butler County, call the Dove House YWCA 24-hour crisis line at (800) 618-6523, call or text Women Helping Women’s 24-hour hotline at 513-381-5610

In Clark County, call Project Woman at 937-328-5308 or the 24-hour crisis line at (800) 634-9893

In Darke County, call the Shelter from Violence Inc. at 937-548-4679

In Greene County, call the Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County at 937-372-4552

In Miami County, call the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County at 800-351-7347

In Preble County, call the YWCA Preble County Domestic Violence Shelter Services at 937-222-7233

In Warren County, call the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter at 888-860-4084

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or live chat at https:www.thehotline.org/#