SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Wednesday, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence issued Georgia's 2014 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report.
These statewide agencies have coordinated the Fatality Review Project since it began in 2004. They work with local teams to review domestic violence-related deaths to learn how Georgia can respond more effectively and prevent more fatalities from occurring.
The Report analyzes domestic violence homicides in the state and provides recommendations that hold tremendous potential to significantly impact the lives of victims of domestic violence with the objective of lowering homicide rates. Over the past 11 years, the Project has reviewed over 100 domestic violence-related deaths.
The 2014 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report showcases innovative work being done in our state to address recommendations made in previous years. In the Report, highlighted communities, partnerships and programs share their process of designing and implementing programs and initiatives and how they overcame hardships.
Some of the main findings include:
- Children are often the silent victims of domestic violence, a fact which can perpetuate the cycle of violence in families and communities. In 47 percent 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 29 percent of the cases.
- Many relationships ending in homicide started when the victim was in their teens. In reviewed cases, 25 percent 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-seven 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.
- Victims are in contact with law enforcement at much higher rates than domestic violence programs. In reviewed cases, 79 percent 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 2014, 65 percent 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, 31 percent of victims were 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.
Georgia holds the unfortunate distinction of ranking 9th 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 1,400 Georgians due to domestic violence. In 2014, 117 deaths of Georgians due to domestic violence were recorded.
Already, at least 30 people in Georgia have lost their lives in 2015 due to domestic violence.
In response to these numbers, Holly Tuchman, Chair of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, stated, "We have a lot to be proud of in our state, but there is still a lot of progress to be made. We hope communities are encouraged by the initiatives highlighted in the Report and are inspired to get involved. 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 ending domestic violence."
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 fatality reviews over the last 11 years are compelling, as is the innovative work being done in our communities. We must work together to address the issue of domestic violence and we must do things differently to reach victims of domestic violence and their families."
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.