Why Domestic Violence Matters

Domestic violence costs you and me – not to mention its victims – a lot. Which is why I’m so passionate and upset about the vote by Christina Olague and her cowardly peers to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff. My grandmother, who was one of the most special people in my life, was a survivor of domestic violence. By the time she came into my life, or I into hers, the active abuse was long past.Like a stone dropped in a pond, the ripples from domestic violence last far longer than the immediate horror of physical and emotional abuse affecting generation after generation. My grandmother died long ago, but she had a big impact on who I am and what I believe. So to stand by quietly while the city’s political progressives try to make this about anything other than domestic violence would be to dishonor not only her, but all women.

Here are some facts:

Fact: Domestic Violence harms more women than diabetes, lung cancer, or stroke.3 Each year, intimate partner violence (IPV) results in an estimated 1,200 deaths and 2 million injuries among women, not to mention the long-term physical and psychological effects that domestic violence has on children. (4)

Fact: About 6% of California’s women (approximately 700,000) have been victims of domestic violence, or three times the national average. When considered over a lifetime, 31-34 percent of adult women in California reported experiencing domestic violence at some point in time.(6)

Fact: Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. The most common reasons for not reporting domestic violence to police are that victims view the incident as a personal or private matter, they fear retaliation from their abuser, and they do not believe that police will do anything about the incident [my emphasis added].(2) Skepticism regarding the quality of police response is grounded in reality. A recent study by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department concluded that there was a “clear and pervasive pattern” of departures from departmental policy. For example, in only one-third of the domestic violence calls did an officer take photographs or ask about prior abuse. And only 17% of the victims were asked about a restraining order, and 83% were provided no printed information with contact information or resources.(2)

Fact: Domestic Violence is incredibly expensive:

  • Domestic violence costs us about $107 billion dollars per year. Adjusting the estimated 1993 cost of domestic violence ($67 billion per year) from a 1996 study into 2012 dollar results in that eye-popping figure: $107,000,000,000.00. According to the 1996 study, domestic violence costs accounts for roughly 15% of total U.S. crime costs. (5)
  • The cost of domestic violence includes out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills and property losses ($3.0 billion), productivity losses at work, home and
    school ($11 billion), and non-monetary losses such as pain, suffering and lost quality of life ($93 billion). [1993 estimated adjusted to 2012 values] (6)

Fact: Even with this dramatic under-reporting, domestic violence calls constitute approximately half of all violent crime calls to police departments. For example, 49% of the violent crime calls received by the DC Metropolitan Police Department in 2000 were for domestic violence incidents.(2)

I believe Christina Olague – and her colleagues that voted for Mirkarimi – are unfit to be Supervisors in San Francisco and Ross Mirkirami is unfit to be our Sheriff because:

  1. Woman and children will remain vulnerable and the transmission of violence from one generation to the next will continue unchecked.
  2. Women often do not report domestic violence because they do not believe that law enforcement will do anything about the incident. The existing reluctance of women to report violence to law enforcement because they believe it will be futile will only be increased when the law enforcement officer tasked with their safety has plead guilty to a false imprisonment charge stemming from a domestic violence investigation.
  3. Domestic violence is expensive. It is money out of my pocket and out of our tax dollars. Based on an annual US estimate of $107 billion, domestic violence will cost the city and county of San Francisco (that would be me and you) about $276,000,000 for 2012! Yes, that’s right – $276 million dollars will be spent here in San Francisco on DV when you factor in out-of-pocket expenses,  productivity losses, and losses for pain, suffering, and lost quality of life.

The city’s elected Supervisors – Christina Olague, John Avalos, David Campos and Jane Kim – voted by 4-7 that spousal abuse isn’t serious enough to be considered official misconduct even though it is against the law. That’s not justice or political courage in my book, it’s plain cowardice. Cowardice that will cost  you and me and the citizens of SF $276 million this year alone. Cowardice that sends a strong message to victims of domestic abuse that their pain, suffering, and abuse don’t matter.

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References
1) Lawrence A. Greenfeld et al. (1998). Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends. Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ #167237. Available from National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

2) Michael Cassidy, Caroline G. Nicholl, & Carmen R. Ross (2001). Results of a Survey Conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department of Victims who Reported Violence Against Women. Available from the DC Metropolitan Police Department (202-727-5029).

3) Jewish Women International.

4) CDC Adverse Health Conditions and Health Risk Behaviors Associated with Intimate Partner Violence – United States 2005.

5) Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look, by Miller, Cohen, and Wiersema. U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.: 1996.

6) The Prevalence of Domestic Violence in California, Alicia Bugarin, California State Library, California Research Bureau (CRB), November 2002, p. 5.

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