COLUMBUS — New data is highlighting the need to strengthen programs that help prevent and respond to domestic violence. An annual report from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network reveals 109 Ohioans died as the result of domestic violence in the year ending June 30 2020, a 35 percent increase from the year before.
During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic-violence fatalities were 14 percent higher than during the same period in 2019. Jo Simonsen, family systems advocacy director with ODVN, said this comes as a primary source of funding for domestic-violence programs, the federal Crime Victims Fund, was cut by one-third statewide.
“While the need is still there and we’re actually seeing sort of increases in severity in some of the cases we’ve heard about most recently, the dollars have dropped off, and that’s going to be significant for our program,” Simonsen said. “We’re still encouraging victims or survivors to reach out to us.”
State funding for domestic-violence programs in Ohio is $1 million annually, compared with $5 million in Indiana, $6.7 million in Kentucky and nearly $16 million in Pennsylvania. Simonsen said ODVN is calling for $5 million in general fund support to provide prevention services, victim advocacy support and permanent housing assistance.
The domestic-violence deaths in the report include four children and one police officer responding to a call. At least 70% of the fatalities were caused by a gun and, Simonsen added, 40 percent involved a homicide-suicide case.
“That’s an important number to think about. You know, what does mental health mean in this case when people are pushed to the point of making a tragic decision to harm their partner, ex-partner or children and then take their own life?” She said. “So what can be done to prevent those kinds of cases?”
She said the data is extremely useful to help domestic-violence organizations and law enforcement evaluate interventions such as protection orders and identify ways to prevent intimate-partner violence fatalities.
“Risk-reduction opportunities or building protective factors, building the resiliency of children that witness domestic violence; accounting for hyper-masculinity and dangerous social norms, that kind of support perpetration of domestic violence,” she said.