by Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D.
CEO, YWCA USA
“Are you or your children in a life-threatening situation? Are you in immediate danger? Does your abuser have access to weapons or guns of any kind?” These are the very first questions to be asked when a victim of violence walks through the door of a YWCA. The safety of an abused woman is our absolute priority. As it must now be for Congress.
Domestic violence touches every one of us. It fills emergency rooms and morgues, keeps employees from work, terrorizes families and interferes with children’s ability to learn. It drives up health care costs, contributes to crime on our streets, and causes lasting harm to communities. Tragically, domestic violence incidents occur each and every day in the United States and abroad, in high-profile cases like the recent killing in South Africa of the girlfriend of Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius, and in the apartment or house next door to yours.
In just this past week, we have witnessed numerous domestic violence-related homicides across our nation. In Columbus, Ohio, a woman was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband, who then may have attempted to kill himself. In Florida, Utah and New York, investigations are underway to piece together domestic violence-related murder-suicide cases. And, in Pennsylvania, a man forced his way into the home of a victim, brutally stabbing her to death before fleeing the scene.The suspect had a long criminal history, including aggravated assault, simple assault and terroristic threats — a story that is not uncommon for many known abusers.