For more than a dozen years now, domestic violence programs across the country have taken a day each fall to document how many people they shelter or otherwise help. It’s a 24-hour window that illuminates just how devastating and pervasive this problem is at any given moment.
According to the most recent report from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, nearly 43,000 victims – both adults and children – needed some form of temporary housing on Sept. 12, 2019. Another 34,000 received non-residential assistance like counseling, transportation and legal services, while 11,000 others had to be temporarily turned away because there weren’t enough resources.
All of Kentucky’s 15 regional domestic-violence programs regularly take part in these annual surveys. On that census day in 2019, they housed 888 adults and children; provided non-residential assistance to 532 more; and answered more than 200 calls. Nearly 130 requests, however couldn’t be met.
These surveys take place just a week or two before October, which for nearly 40 years now has been set aside to make the public more aware of domestic violence’s reach and to re-emphasize that help is available.
The numbers affected are sobering. Statistics indicate one in three women and one in four men will be physically abused at some point in their lives, and intimate-partner violence makes up 15 percent of all violent crime. Victims also miss an average of eight million days of work a year.
The modern era to address this scourge of society began nationally in the late 1960s. Kentucky’s first rape-crisis center got its start in 1971, and a few years later, our first domestic violence shelter opened its doors in Louisville. By the mid-1980s, every area development district had one.
The General Assembly provides critical funding to these programs and has passed numerous other laws designed to help domestic-violence victims and those most at risk.
Kentucky was the first state, for example, to have an automated notification system that lets victims know if their offender has been let out of jail or prison or has escaped from authorities. Those with domestic violence orders can also be notified if their offender has purchased a firearm.
The state has also made sure repeat offenders spend more time in jail; kept insurance companies and landlords from discriminating against victims; helped create and then support the University of Kentucky’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women; and cleared a years-long backlog of untested rape kits.
More recently, Kentucky State Police has hired 16 victim advocates, making the agency one of the first statewide police departments in the country to take this step. These advocates help crime victims and those in traumatic events get access to needed programs, from mental health support to legal services, and the advocates also serve as liaisons between victims and law enforcement agencies. Since this program began last year, KSP says the advocates have helped more than 1,000 people.
For much of country’s history, domestic violence was an often-ignored crime and victims were hesitant to reach out for help. That, thankfully, has changed in significant and lasting ways, but there is still much work to be done. I was honored with KCDAV’s and KY Association of Sexual Assault Programs “Champion for Justice” award last year.
If you are being abused or know someone who is, please do not hesitate to call those trained to keep victims safe. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-SAFE (7233), and the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a lot of information as well, including numbers for our regional shelters. It can be found online at KCADV.ORG. For immediate emergencies, of course, you can dial 911.
As always, if you have questions or comments about this issue or any other affecting the commonwealth, please let me know. My email is email@example.com, or you can leave a message during normal business hours for me or any legislator at 800-372-7181.
56th District Representative
Kentucky House of Representatives
P.O. Box 1002
Versailles, KY 40383