This month started off with a stark reminder of the importance of the work that each of us does every day. On June 5, Teresa Wilson, sister of West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence co-director Tonia Thomas, was the victim of a brutal and fatal beating allegedly as a result of domestic violence by her live-in boyfriend, who has been arrested for the deadly attack. Hearing the news of Teresa’s death reminds us that violence against women is always close to home – if it isn’t us, it’s our family, our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues. All of us here at OVW send Tonia and the rest of her family our deepest sympathies and our resolve to continue doing all we can to support the life-saving work of coalitions and service providers across the country.
OVW is committed to reducing the incidence of domestic violence-related homicides. Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, we have seen domestic violence homicides drop significantly across the country. The work of domestic violence advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, health care providers and many others has enabled so many victims to break through the isolation and find opportunities to escape violence.
However, there are still areas throughout the country where progress has been slow or uneven – and even one homicide is one too many. Some communities have witnessed little change in homicide numbers, while some jurisdictions have seen increases in recent years. Intimate partner homicides account for 14% of all homicides in the US, and researchers estimate that for every victim of domestic violence who has been killed, nine are nearly killed.
There is, however, a growing consensus among researchers and practitioners that many domestic violence homicides are predictable and therefore preventable. In the majority of these homicides, there was a prior history of domestic violence, as well as other high risk indicators. Several evidenced-based models for successfully identifying high-risk cases, intervening, and, ultimately, reducing domestic violence-related homicide are in use in some large and small jurisdictions across the country, and it is a priority of the Obama Administration to see these models replicated. In the coming months we will be launching a special initiative aimed at reducing the incidence and impact of domestic violence-related homicides. We look forward to working with many of you on this life-saving initiative.
As we mourn the tragic loss of Teresa Wilson — and so many women like her — it is essential to remember that by all of us working together, we can stop this heartbreaking violence.
Thank you for everything you do in the struggle against violence against women.