by Judith Bailey,
Past Chair, Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia Board of Trustees
It may happen behind closed doors, but the toll that it’s taking on the City of Richmond is no secret. Family violence costs us, in human suffering at every age, rising costs for mental health and medical care, strained resources for law enforcement, diminished workplace productivity; and homeless shelters at capacity. The costs of family violence are real and far-reaching and all Richmond residents – and Virginians – pay.
How well are we doing as a Commonwealth in protecting a fundamental right of residents—to live safely in their own homes? Up until now, we could only guess at the answer. But, a groundbreaking report from the Family and Children’s Trust Fund (FACT) brings together data that highlights conditions for Virginians of all ages who have experienced violence within their families.
Violence At Home: The FACT Report is unique because it looks at family violence holistically, across different “types” of violence and the entire lifespan. Those findings are centrally located in one report, which measures 18 “social indicators” in eight geographic regions. Readers will be familiar with some of the indicators, such as the percentage of people living below the poverty line.
Other indicators are less widely-known, but can reveal surprising and troubling facts about the community. For instance, Richmond City is among the localities with the highest number of adults, aged 18 – 64, whose deaths were determined to be the result of a homicide by a current or past family member, or whose deaths were precipitated by acts of family violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed at the deceased.
Why would this be true for the capital city? Here lies the report’s real power: Its publication provides an unprecedented opportunity for us as residents, policy makers, public and private organizations to determine the answer to that question, and others. Lives depend upon it.
The FACT Report includes hypotheses to questions such as: What leads to some communities having higher rates of family violence and others having lower rates? Why are arrest rates for family violence different among the regions? What might be reasons for apparent increases in child and elder abuse in some regions compared to others?
Based on data gathered over five years, The FACT Report was created to do more than get us talking as a community, although that’s critical, too. As service providers and concerned citizens, we have a tool that helps identify whether our current services and practices are matching community needs. And, if they’re not, we can refer to a uniform set of data points to collaborate on concrete strategies that help residents of every age and background meet a fundamental expectation- to be safe in their own homes.
There’s no question that some of the statistical information is tough to read. One sobering statistic: 30 to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
Rather than discourage us, let’s use this information to encourage, push, demand resources be allocated and monitored based on need and effectiveness. The goal of The FACT Report isn’t to make Virginians feel as if there is nothing they can do. It’s just the opposite, because so much is already being done.
For instance, Richmond Metropolitan Services is proactively involving fathers in research-based parenting education workshops. Their goal is to decrease parental rejection, reduce family violence and improve family relationships. This is a collaborative effort with Rubicon and The Offender Aid and Restoration Program.
One in three homicides in Virginia resulted from domestic violence; one in four domestic violence homicides were committed in the presence of children. The ChildSavers Trauma Response program provides immediate-response mental health therapy and follow-up services for Richmond children, ages 2-17, who have witnessed or been victims of violent crimes or other traumatic events. The Richmond Police Department, Richmond Ambulance Authority, and Medical College of Virginia have joined forces to provide this service, which is as necessary as it is heartbreaking.
These are two examples, but there are many others. The Commonwealth has so many dedicated organizations and individuals that will benefit from a definitive report on family violence across the lifespan continuum. Virginians of every age are affected. They understand the terrible costs of family violence. Now it’s time for the rest of us to.
View the FACT Report online at www.fact.state.va.us