Domestic Violence Costs Measured In Lives And Fear

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Camille Levee has set herself an impossible task, God bless her. If you want to know just how difficult — and how important — a challenge she faces, just keep track of how long it takes you to read this editorial.

The new director of the Time Out, Inc. would like to stamp out domestic violence in Rim Country — although she’ll settle for empowering as many people trapped in violent relationships as possible.

The task looms large, but it also lies at the root of the most important problems this community — and any other — must confront.

She hopes to build on the marvelous work that predecessor Gerry Baily and many others have done already in supporting the operations of the only shelter for battered women and their children in Rim Country. A heartening 85 people contribute 11,000 volunteer hours annually to the shelter.

Tragically, state and federal grant support for the Time Out Shelter and its educational and prevention programs has been shrinking, even as the strain of the sickly economy has increased the pressure on many families to the breaking point.

Domestic violence remains perhaps the most common emergency call to the Payson Police Department. Don’t take our word for it: Just look at the bookings and reports published in our police log. Moreover, domestic violence calls remain the most dangerous category of emergency to which police must respond.

Levee came to her passion for fighting domestic violence as a result of growing up in a violent home. In her case, her mother screamed, berated and attacked both she and her father. She recalls the day she finally asked her father why he stayed, despite the wounds he suffered. He said he couldn’t leave her behind to face the violence alone. In fact, that’s why many women also remain in violent relationships, trapped by a lack of money and the needs of their children.

Domestic violence remains both pervasive and perplexing. It remains difficult to understand and hazardous to judge such relationships from the outside. But it’s essential that we confront this scourge head on.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that an estimated 30 percent of women and 10 percent of men have been raped, beaten or stalked by an intimate partner.

That’s just an estimate, however, since surveys show that the between 55 and 95 percent of victims never report intimate assaults to police.

Domestic violence accounts for more than 2,400 murders annually. Domestic violence remains the single greatest cause of injury among women, accounting for more injuries than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Children also pay a toll, even if the abuse never strikes them directly. Each year, an estimated 10 million children witness violence in their homes. Studies show watching such intimate violence unfold dramatically increases the odds that child will one day end up in a violent relationship.

This unchecked reign of terror behind closed doors extracts a terrible emotional and moral price, often compounded by the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Moreover, domestic violence costs the economy about $8.3 billion annually, according to the CDC, causing the loss of 8 million days of sick leave annually — the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.

Studies show that despite our best efforts to fight this scourge, domestic violence scars and terrifies each generation anew.

One study estimated that 20 percent of teenaged girls have already found themselves in a relationship in which their boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm in reaction to a threatened breakup.

The CDC reports that among victims of domestic violence, 22 percent of women and 15 percent of men suffered their first attack between the ages of 11 and 17. Moreover, 10 percent of students nationally have reported suffering an injury inflicted by someone they were dating within the past year, according to the CDC.

Tragically, the economic traumas afflicting many families in Rim Country, coupled with the loss of medical coverage and the lack of support services, can only increase the pressure and damage. We have seen the indications of poverty and desperation rising on every hand, as demonstrated last week by the first two installments of our ongoing series “Hard Times in High Country.”

And by the way, for every 9 seconds you spent reading this article — another woman in this country got beaten. By the time you read next Tuesday’s editorial, domestic violence will have claimed another 26 lives in the United States.

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