News Release (KWWL)
Domestic violence expected to intensify
Cedar Rapids--One out four women in Iowa is a victim of domestic violence, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. These figures -- released pre-flood -- found that 23.1 percent of Iowa women and 13.7 percent of Iowa men have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.
It's widely reported that crimes like domestic violence increase after a natural disaster. In fact, according to a USA Today article published in 2006, the New Orleans police reported an upswing of domestic violence in post-Katrina New Orleans.
"Domestic violence has always existed in Cedar Rapids," said Doralyn Benson, St. Luke's Social Services manager. "However, we expect the problem will be exacerbated by the increased stressors on people - the loss of property, possessions and jobs after the flood."
"Sometimes disasters force battered women to return to abusive partners," said Tara Beck, advocacy services supervisor at Waypoint in Cedar Rapids. "A victim may see no other housing options or that returning to an abusive partner as the only way to keep the family together."
Long before the flood waters overwhelmed the state, St. Luke's Hospital started the Domestic Violence Task Team. Team members formed a partnership with Waypoint to educate St. Luke's employees on how to recognize domestic violence signs, how to talk to patients or co-workers about domestic violence and how to get help for victims. In the wake of the floods - this partnership is even more important to maintain.
"It's a difficult subject to broach," said Benson. "Most domestic violence cases go unreported. Many people many not realize that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We want to use this opportunity to draw attention to topic and let people know how they can get help if they are in an abusive relationship."
Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, physical, sexual, economic or psychological abuse. It's a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. Use of threats or violence is used not only against the victim but children, family members - even pets.
Children of all ages can suffer greatly from witnessing the domestic battering of a parent. Even though they themselves have not been physically injured, the emotional effects of witnessing violence may affect them throughout their lives.
"Many abusers react to situations like the flood with violence because they see it as a way to reassert control in the face of disaster and loss," said Beck.
"We are told it takes six to twelve months before we hit bottom and see more cases of domestic violence," said Benson. "So we're really not seeing the violence quite yet, but unfortunately we are expecting it and preparing for it. We want people to know they can ask for help."
Here's how individuals can get help.
Waypoint Domestic Violence Program
319-363-2093 or 800-208-0388
Iowa Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline