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Thursday September 23rd

October brings attention to domestic violence in North Carolina

Gov. Pat McCrory named October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Oct. 1 — emphasizing that the problem is a top tier issue in the state. 

"It is unacceptable that one in four women will experience physical violence from their partners in their lifetime," said Ann McCrory, the state's first lady. "We must commit to ending domestic violence in all of its forms and build safe communities for everyone." 

Amily McCool, systems advocacy coordinator for the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said the month brings needed recognition to an issue that affects so many.

Even if a person is not a victim, they likely have a family member, friend or neighbor that is, she said.

“I think Domestic Violence Awareness Month tries to help really bring that message home,” McCool said.

So far in 2015, the Coalition has reported 38 deaths as a result of domestic violence. This comes after reports of 64 deaths in both 2013 and 2014.

The N.C. Council for Women reported that the state has responded to approximately 116,052 crisis line calls during the 2014 fiscal year. 

Christina Brewer, spokesperson at InterAct of Wake County, said she hopes Domestic Violence Awareness Month changes how people think about the issue.

“Raising awareness to the issues of domestic violence will help people in our community understand that it’s not just somebody's issue, but that it’s everybody’s issue,” she said.

Brewer said it is crucial to help people understand there are many barriers that may prevent victims from leaving abusive situations. 

“Our goal is to help people understand that the blame should never be placed on a victim, and always (hold) that perpetrator accountable for the violence,” she said.

Obstacles include questions about how a victim will bring their children, will they be able to keep their job or how will they support themselves or their children, she said.

She added domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports 63 percent of homeless women have been a victim of domestic violence.

“The domestic violence movement as a whole is all about empowerment, in getting back that power that has been taken away from victims, helping them not just survive but really learn how to thrive, and really move from victim to survivor,” Brewer said.

To try and address these issues, the N.C. General Assembly has recently passed legislation that include provisions meant to protect victims of domestic violence.

House Bill 465, signed into law June 5, includes a provision that expands pre-trial release conditions for domestic violence cases. Before this law, only those arrested for domestic violence against their spouse would be subject to up to 48 hours in jail without bail — giving the judge time to review the individuals' criminal records.

But now, McCool said this policy includes dating violent crimes, as well as spousal crimes. These hours are important for victims' protection after an incident. 

She said other recent legislative efforts include a criminalization of so-called "revenge porn" and the assignment of longer sentences to those committing crimes in the presence of minors. 

Professor Ariana Vigil, a women’s studies professor at UNC, said she thinks these provisions are a step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done.

“Do I think this bill is going to end domestic violence? No, of course not,” she said. “I think these conversations expand our understanding of what domestic violence is, what it looks like, what are ways to respond to it, but unfortunately they are not problems that are going to be solved overnight.”

Vigil said interpersonal violence is a systemic issue that must be addressed.

“I don’t think it’s the government's job to solve violence, I don’t think it’s the individuals job, I think it’s all of that together."

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