July 22, 2009

AN UNSEEN ASPECT OF RECESSION

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Everyone in Idaho - and throughout the country - somehow feels the effects of the current economic recession. Many individuals and families have dramatically reduced spending to make up for fewer work hours and smaller paychecks, while many others have been laid off or lost their jobs altogether. Unfortunately, another less-noticed side effect of an economic downturn is an increase in domestic violence. 

A recent Washington Post article highlighted the rise of domestic violence in Fairfax County, Virginia, citing one expert who said, "Economic stress is often not the sole cause but a major contributing factor for families already in distress." Other studies were cited showing that incidents of domestic violence increase nationwide during economic downturns. This is an unfortunate and unacceptable side effect of recession, and one that is undoubtedly repeated closer to home in our Idaho communities. It is also preventable and we should all be aware of it and help do our part to stop it. 

The emotional and physical effects of domestic violence became very real to me in 1998 during a visit to an Eastern Idaho shelter. I gained a deeper understanding of the severity of such violence and its negative effect on individuals, families, and communities through very personal stories shared with me at that time. Since then, domestic violence awareness and prevention have become a top priority for me. 

In Idaho, there were over 6,200 reported incidents of intimate partner violence in 2006. Family violence increased from 2005 to 2006, and in addition to the aforementioned intimate partner violence, there were 2,018 incidents of family violence. Nationally, there are approximately 1.5 million women and 834,732 men who are raped and/or physically assaulted annually by an intimate partner.

One of the saddest aspects of this problem is that children who are exposed to domestic violence often become its victims and, then later in life, perpetrators. Even children who aren't exposed to violence in their family life are exposed to a pop culture littered with certain movies, music, and video games that further exacerbates the problem. 

Acting to abate domestic violence can be a serious challenge if it involves friends or family. But we can all take simple steps to help to prevent it. Donating money or volunteering time to prevention and awareness groups in Idaho is a great way to help. Teaching our children clearly that domestic violence is never acceptable goes a long way toward preventing problems before they start. No matter how we choose help, it is always the right thing to do and can make a significant difference to victims of domestic violence and the children exposed to it.

Many organizations throughout the state work to raise awareness and prevent domestic violence. Health and welfare offices, law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, schools and churches all play a role in curbing domestic violence. Make a commitment to learn what these groups in your area do and how you can get involved. The problem resides in every state, county, and town - including yours. With your help, the solution can reside there, too. 

Congress recently designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we should act now. Domestic violence occurs every day, and we must work to raise awareness and prevent such incidences from occurring every day. There is no better time than now to make a positive difference in the lives of others. To learn more about the prevalence and persistence of this problem, the organizations in Idaho working bring it to an end and what you can do to help, please visit my website at http://crapo.senate.gov. 

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