We have posted the domestic violence statistics for the major counties and all the counties surrounding Cuyahoga in Northeast Ohio. We have provided the number of police calls regarding violence within a household, the number of fatalities and injuries combined with the number of shelter beds (above). These are dedicated beds exclusively for those fleeing violence. What we see from above is the large number of calls compared to the small number of beds available. In fact only Medina, Lorain and Erie Counties have fewer beds than Cuyahoga County, and they have a small population compared to Cuyahoga County. We need a discussion about the our response to violence in the community, because with so few emergency beds how are we keeping women safe?
We know that 70 to 80% of the women in the shelters are fleeing violence or have violence in their past. We know that many women are not getting the specialized care needed to make a clean break from an abuser. We have a woman who was nearly beaten to death by her abuser last year, and lives on the streets with her attacker. No matter how much we talk to her and show her that she has a choice and has options she returns to her long time boyfriend. They drink and she ends up in the hospital. There was a nice story on NPR about domestic violence and women who are resistant to going into shelter on August 30. This story was by Gabrielle Emanuel who followed one woman around at night in DC.
We only have 24 beds locally and some of those beds are prioritized for Jewish women. The current system in Cuyahoga County is not working, and we need a better safety net for women fleeing relationship violence. We need more safe places for women to flee. We should have professional help for everyone fleeing violence. We need to keep women, even those women who abuse drugs or alcohol, away from their abusers. We need to help those with a mental illness to stay safe in the face of large numbers of men who prey on weaker people.
All the family shelters do their best to keep women safe, but there is a need for specialized trained staff to help these women from returning to their abuser. We need counselors who can convince women that the road forward might be tough, but it is better than the alternative. We need professionals who can inspire confidence that their abuser will not get to them and will not harm the children. We need trained professionals who can help when the abuser bankrupts the victim. We need a whole different approach to providing assistance to women fleeing abuse from emergency to transitional to legal and follow up services after the family is stabilized. We need more resources to serve domestic violence starting with more emergency beds in Cuyahoga County.
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