Respondents in our annual survey always list Traffic as their number one public safety concern. A colleague of mine once called it the little red sports car phenomena, because that little red car is in your face every time it speeds up and down your street.
Not true with domestic violence. It happens in the privacy of the home or it is a problem people frequently choose to ignore. Every so often, a tragic case, like the Pamela Powers homicide, will give us pause to consider the issue of domestic violence and our role in preventing victimization.
In a previous blog on crime statistics, I mentioned that our domestic violence offenses increased significantly in the first six months of 2009. From January to the middle of November, domestic violence is up well over 30%. Domestic related aggravated assaults jumped from six in 2008 to 14 in 2009 for the same time period.
When we examine the recent domestic violence related murder of Pamela Powers, it is important to note the chain of events that occurred. Since December of 2008, there were eight police reports involving Pamela Powers and Christopher Sharpe. We can see a developing trend that began with verbal arguments and harassing phone calls, which then escalated to a simple battery and a felony battery.
One of the biggest challenges in the fight against domestic violence is first identifying those who need and will benefit from the many programs and interventions that are available. Although one out of four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, it is widely known that most incidents of family violence are not reported to the police. Hiding or minimizing the problem is common and occurs for a variety of reasons, including fear, embarrassment and denial.
Victims of domestic violence often feel trapped in a vicious cycle, unable to break free from their abusive partners. That is why police officers and victim advocates push for domestic violence injunctions. Additionally, prosecution often occurs without the cooperation of the victim.
There are a multitude of programs and services available to domestic violence victims, so they can start to build a life away from their violent partners. Our victim advocate can help victims with safety planning, shelter, financial assistance, victim compensation, court appearances, and emotional support.
There are two domestic violence shelters in Palm Beach County that offer safe havens for emergency situations, as well as transitional housing that allows families to begin a new life in a low cost and safe environment. Counseling, support groups and therapy can be accessed through Palm Beach County Victim Services. Legal aid and other supportive special services for victims are offered throughout the state by many agencies.
As the Pamela Powers case demonstrated, arrests are not always the most effective interventions. Other people are typically aware of what is happening and miss opportunities to make a difference. We all have an obligation to be involved in order to get victims (and their children) the help and support that they need to change their lives. Law enforcement members stand ready to assist and the following resources are available in our community.
Boca Raton Police Department Victim Advocate
Palm Beach County Victim Services
Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA)
YWCA Harmony House
Florida Domestic Violence Hotline
A special thanks to Boca Raton Police Victim Advocate Maureen Francois, who was the primary contributor to this piece.