Kids carry scars of abuse into adulthood
By Barbara La Wall
October 3, 2007
Domestic violence is the most common cause of injury to women and children, with 13,483 such crimes reported to local law enforcement last year.
But that figure doesn't even begin to tell the story because domestic violence is one of the most seriously underreported crimes we have.
Children carry the physical and emotional scars of violence long after victim witness advocates seek to alleviate their initial trauma at a crime scene.
The long-term effect of early childhood violence is astounding.
A study of more than 17,000 adult volunteers was published in 1998 by medical doctors Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda, clearly linking childhood maltreatment and later life health and well-being.
Adults were asked if they had grown up experiencing any emotional or physical neglect, recurrent physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, a mother who was treated violently or a household member who had been incarcerated.
Such trauma also led to higher incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and morbid obesity.
The doctors' striking finding after their massive number of interviews: Adverse childhood experiences and maltreatment are vastly more common than previously recognized or acknowledged.
As Pima County attorney, I am committed to decreasing domestic violence in our community.
My office works with law enforcement to ensure that cases are appropriately investigated to enhance the preservation of evidence.
We work vigorously, aggressively and in a timely manner to prosecute domestic violence to ensure that the offenders are held accountable and to protect the victim and the community.
A recently begun Domestic Violence Court significantly enhances the process.
In our multidisciplinary approach, the consolidated court system, adult probation, Sheriff's Office and my office all work together to hold offenders accountable and to provide the best service possible to victims.
Domestic Violence Court ensures that violent, serious and repeat offenders do not slip through the cracks.
All the cases are first reviewed by one judge, one prosecutor and one victim advocate. The worst offenders are kept in DV Court and their cases are tried by a judge and prosecutor specially trained in the complexities of these cases.
We also continue to work to ensure that victims and their children receive specialized crisis services from our victim witness program, with follow-up services from community organizations that enhance victim safety and ease victim trauma.
We continue to hold offenders accountable and, when appropriate, see that they are afforded rehabilitation and treatment.
Our victim witness program also collaborates with Jewish Family and Children's Services and other social service agencies to serve children and families exposed to domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse and community violence.
A Community Domestic Violence Task Force recently was formed to deal with inter-agency collaboration, training, resources and victim services.
Programs such as these should lead to even more collaboration and partnership, providing opportunities for non-traditional, creative and innovative strategies to further decrease effects of this insidious crime.
From the medical, social, economic and criminal justice perspective, domestic violence affects all of us.
This crime puts our safety, possibly our health, our health- care system and our criminal justice system at risk. Medical findings alone strongly document the need for communities to act with more intensive prevention and intervention.
As you read this, think of what our community could accomplish if we could raise just one generation of children without domestic violence.
Just one generation.
Think of the possibilities.