RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In 2015, 25 percent of all homicides in the Commonwealth were domestic-related. Experts say, in most cases, domestic violence was prevalent in the relationship before the homicide.
With October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month as a backdrop, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced a big step forward to prevent domestic violence Wednesday.
"It can leave scars, both seen and unseen, that last a lifetime," Herring said as he announced a plan to help survivors of domestic violence, adding that many times, survivors don't know where to turn for help.
"Unhealthy and abusive relationships can be complex ones and it can be incredibly difficult for a victim to break free, especially when you start to think about children, housing, financial support, all of the other things that go through a victim's mind," remarked Herring.
Data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Virginia State Police shows:
- 97 Virginians lost their lives to domestic homicide in 2015
- Domestic homicides accounted for 25 percent of all homicides in 2015
- African-Americans died at roughly three times the rate of whites from domestic violence homicide
- More than half of domestic homicides are committed with a firearm
- There were 20,872 arrests for misdemeanor assault and battery against family or household member in 2014
- There were 1,153 arrests for felony assault and battery against family or household member in 2014.
Police officers around Virginia are trained to ask a series of questions when responding to domestic calls, which is known as the Lethality Assessment Protocol, or LAP. They're trying to identify if a person is a high-risk for domestic violence, or worse, domestic homicide.
"One thing we found out as communities started implementing LAP was that something rather small was actually a barrier for some communities…and that was phone," Herring explained.
He said there are departments that can't provide officers with work cell phones and some who prohibit officers from using their personal phones.
Through its HopeLine program, Verizon is donating 500 cell phones to the state to distribute to agencies for the use of helping victims call for help if they need domestic violence resources. They will be able to contact 24-hour-a-day community resources that can help a survivor and any vulnerable children leave a situation of domestic violence or abuse before the situation escalates or even turns fatal.
"When you think about it, it's a really simple protocol," said Kristine Hall of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, who said this donation is lifesaving.
"It's lifesaving because, it's based on the research that, when you can connect survivors to services, it's a lifesaving event," she said.
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