Domestic Violence Claims About 40 Lives a Year in NJ
So far this year, at least 37 people have died in domestic violence incidents in New Jersey, according to Jane Shivas, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
In 2014, 42 people were killed in domestic violence-related incidents, the most current homicide numbers available from the state's uniform crime report on domestic violence, according to Shivas.
The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence has been keeping track of 2016 statistics on its own, mostly through reports in the media.
"Homicides and suicides are not counted among the homicides in the uniform crime report at this point, so we have begun to count that on our own and keep track of that," she said. "The number goes up and down by a couple each year, but it mostly stays around 40 homicides a year."
Homicide reduction is a key issue for her agency.
"We want to be able to prevent homicide by identifying what are the risk factors and creating programs and implementing those programs to reduce the number of people murdered in domestic violence situations," Shivas said.
In 2015, the agency's Residential Domestic Violence programs sheltered nearly 1,500 victims and more than 1,500 children. Its hotline answered nearly 93,000 calls from people in crisis or those seeking information about options and services available to them.
The agency's non-residential residential programs offers services to people who don't need protective shelter.
"We served over 13,000 victims with legal, financial and housing advocacy, as well as group and individual counseling," she said.
The agency also provides services to the offenders in domestic violence situations through its Batterers Intervention program. Last year, the agency helped 1,000 offenders.
The Department of Children and Family Services has funded a couple of batterers intervention programs that focus on fatherhood in helping the men who may want to help their children not become abusive.
Training is a very critical part of the work the agency does throughout the state.
"Our member programs provided nearly 3,000 trainings and presentations to over 96,000 individuals, and that includes court personnel, police, healthcare providers, faith leaders, our people in high schools, students and teachers, and the general public," said Shivas.
The statistics indicate the seriousness of the issue, and Shivas believes domestic violence is still underreported in New Jersey because some victims will make every attempt to make the relationship work or to give the abuser the opportunity to make the changes that they continually promise.
There's also the stigma associated with being a victim. Shivas pointed out that last year the agency changed its name from the Coalition for Battered Women to the Coalition to End Domestic Violence to reflect more accurately who they assist and to change the perception of "battered" woman.
"In taking that name out, we're broadly reaching out to people who wouldn't see themselves as battered, and hopefully helping people to define domestic violence more broadly," said Shivas.
Emotional abuse, while it does not leave physical scars, can be more devastating than the physical abuse.
"Coercive control is really the key of domestic violence, where the offender wants to maintain control over the person's behavior, thoughts and actions, and so they use a number of techniques to be able to try to control that person," Shivas said.
Shivas sees a benefit to a recent presidential campaign controversy involving statements made in 2005 by Republican candidate Donald Trump, who lewdly bragged about groping women.
"It's brought it out in the open," she said. "It's helped women who have been sexually assaulted in the way that Trump spoke of, it's helped them to come forward and know that they're not alone, and that what happened to them was not their fault."