Georgia ranked 12th in domestic violence deaths - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Georgia ranked 12th in domestic violence deaths

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

New numbers are out about domestic violence deaths in Georgia - and the report is alarming.

On Friday, two state commissions issued Georgia's 2013 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report.

Georgia holds the unfortunate distinction of ranking 12th in the nation for men killing women in single-victim homicides, most of which are domestic violence murders, according to a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center.

Over the past 11 years, the project has recorded the deaths of over 1,300 Georgians due to domestic violence.

In 2013, 116 Georgians died due to domestic violence, which is 15 fewer deaths than 2012 according to a new report released by The Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Already this year in Georgia, 14 people have lost their lives. In response to these numbers Cheryl Branch, executive director of the Safe Shelter said that is why they are trying to spread the word on their services.

"In the study, it says not enough victims were getting in touch with domestic violence shelters and the truth is none of us have marketing or pr departments to do advertising," said Branch.

Branch adds intervention is key.

"In 34 years, well over 24,000 women and children have come through our doors," said Branch. "No one involved in our program has been killed by his or her abuser. You take that first step, call 911, you are putting people on notice. I am afraid and I need help. We have a great network in Savannah."

The report states 73 percent of homicide victims did call law enforcement before they were killed. Branch said Metro Police officers are getting more domestic violence training.

"When an officer goes to a call, they do a lethality assessment with the victim," said Branch. "He can say on this, 'you are in great danger, let me call safe shelter.'"

In the cases where someone has lost their life due to domestic violence, Branch explained it usually is because no one was aware of the situation.

"We do an informal fatality review. Did that victim call 911 or make crisis calls, to get an idea of the gaps of services? How can we do better? We always come back to same thing. It is awareness," said Branch.

Some of the main findings of the Report include:

· Children are often the silent victims of domestic violence, a fact which can perpetuate the cycle of violence in families and communities. In 45% of reviewed cases, the victim and perpetrator had at least one minor child together at the time of the homicide and children witnessed the homicide in 18% of the cases.

· Many relationships ending in homicide started when the victim was in their teens. In reviewed cases, 26% of victims began their relationship with the person who eventually killed them when they were between the ages of 13 and 19.

· Limited financial resources can be the single greatest barrier to leaving an abusive relationship. Seventy-four percent of victims were employed at the time of their death but many felt unable to support themselves outside the abusive relationship. For victims who were employed, they were usually not allowed to be in control of their finances.

· Domestic violence victims and perpetrators often have contact with the criminal legal system, a fact which holds great potential for increased safety. Unfortunately, homicides still occur when lack of accountability and coordination among systems leave victims at increased risk.

· Victims are in contact with law enforcement at much higher rates than domestic violence programs. In reviewed cases, 78% of victims were in contact with law enforcement in the five years before the homicide.

· Firearms are the leading cause of death in domestic violence fatalities in Georgia, greater than all other methods combined. In 2013, 73% of domestic violence related fatalities in Georgia were due to firearms.

· When a domestic violence victim is leaving an abusive relationship, she is at a significantly higher risk for serious injury or death - even before she takes obvious actions to leave. In almost every reviewed case, the victim was either contemplating ending the relationship, making preparations to leave the relationship, or had already taken clear steps signaling a desire to end the relationship.

· Faith communities are often a leading source of support in the lives of victims. In reviewed cases, 32% of victims were actively involved in their faith community in the five years before the homicide.

· Most victims, their families and their friends do not know about local domestic violence programs in their community, or that they can call 1-800-33-HAVEN for support and resources 24 hours a day.

In response to these numbers, Judge Stephen Kelley, Chair of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, stated, "We are making a lot of progress in our state but we still have much to do. The recommendations in the Report can no longer remain words on a page. Everyone - judges, prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, state legislators, private attorneys, advocates, faith leaders, employers, and all citizens in Georgia - has a role to play in in increasing victim safety and offender accountability."

Jan Christiansen, Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, urges readers to view the Report as a call to action, "The findings from the last 10 years are compelling. They serve as a foundation from which we must build and repair our coordinated community efforts to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable. We must work together to do things differently for Georgia citizens who are victims of domestic violence - their lives depend on it."

To access the report for free online, or for information about the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, please go to http://www.gcadv.org <http://www.gcadv.org> and www.gcfv.org.

If you or someone you know is being abused, there are community and statewide resources available to you. Call 1.800.33.HAVEN (voice/TTY), the toll-free, statewide, 24-hour hotline, for a confidential place to get help or find resources.

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