Thursday, September 25, 2008

Domestic violence review team forming

By Barrett Newkirk, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

ANDERSON — Madison County took a step Wednesday toward fighting its high rate of domestic violence related deaths. Government and service agency officials announced that a newly formed Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team will begin reviewing closed cases to determine how deaths linked to domestic violence could have been prevented.

It is the first review team of its kind in Indiana and took two years of planning to get off the ground after Madison County commissioners adopted an ordinance in 2006 to form the team. The Indiana General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 to encourage county review teams. Madison County's team is partially funded through a federal grant. "I'm very excited that this is the first team, and I can't wait to see what results we share statewide," said Laura Berry Berman, executive director on the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In the 12 months from July 2007 through June 2008, Madison County had six domestic violence-related homicides. Five of those occurred in the first half of 2008.
That's compared with just two deaths in all of 2007, three in 2006 and only one in 2005. Berman said Madison County ranked third for its overall deaths and first based on population, which shows the crucial role of the new review team. Research shows that high unemployment and access to guns are factors that frequently contribute to domestic violence related deaths, Berman said, and with local unemployment above the state average and Indiana's high number of gun owners, those trends could be part of the recent rise in deaths. But only by examining closed cases will the review team be able to determine what factors lead to the deaths, she said.

However, several members on the team emphasized that domestic violence-related deaths are never inevitable. "We know that domestic violence-related fatalities can be prevented, and our goal is to intervene and reduce those fatalities," said Kandi Floyd, a victim advocate at Alternatives Inc. and a member of the review team. Other members of the team include law enforcement officials, social service leaders and domestic violence awareness advocates.

To see the orginal story, please click here.

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