It was just in time for Halloween when PennLive brought us some terrifying news about domestic violence homicide rates in Pennsylvania.
Based on data collected in 2009, the rate of man-on-woman homicide in Pennsylvania is higher than it has been in the fourteen years that the Violence Policy Center has been conducting this study. Pennsylvania is now the 13th most dangerous place in the country for women in abusive relationships – a ranking in which we fare worse than any of our neighboring states.
Of the 102 women killed that year, 58 were wives, girlfriends or ex-lovers, and 85 of them knew their killer, according to the study. Four were killed by strangers.
This Violence Policy Center study doesn’t analyze causes, so Pennsylvanians are left guessing why our numbers are so grim.
The recession is an obvious factor: reports of abuse have been shown to escalate under financial stress, and women in abusive situations have fewer resources to support themselves after leaving their partners. Domestic violence programs also tend to suffer when the economy is bad, as the government is often less willing to provide funding for such programs and individuals don’t have as much money to donate. During times of economic trouble, agencies such as Pittsburgh’s Crisis Center North often find themselves struggling to meet an increased need for services on a severely decreased budget.
Violence experts in Pennsylvania warn that the state faces specific risks as a result of conservative attitudes about relationships and inconsistent enforcement of the laws that protect women. Penn State University professor Cheryl Dellasega comments:
There’s all this attention paid to school and domestic violence in the cities, but there are people isolated in small communities, where prevalent mind-sets are more conservative….[a]nd a lot of times in a rural area you are staying close to family so you have influences on you that are very traditional … about women’s roles, women working.
According to domestic violence educators in Pennsylvania, the state’s laws regarding gun restriction in cases of domestic violence are actually fairly good. Enforcement, however, has not been particularly successful. In a state where large differences are seen among counties, and local forces tend to influence courtroom outcomes, judges across Pennsylvania have repeatedly failed to confiscate guns, deny bail, or execute protection-from-abuse orders as the law dictates. As a result, women have paid with their lives.
For more information about domestic violence and to find resources, please visit the links below.
Domestic Violence Resources: