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Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
In the United States, it injures over 2 million people and kills 1,300 every year. 30 percent of women and 22 percent of men are victims in their lifetime. Sadly, these numbers represent only 50 percent of known cases. This is domestic violence. Itâ??s real, and itâ??s closer to home than many people think. Every Idaho community has stories of family violence. What an appalling tragedyâ??even having seen what I have in the capacity of a public official, itâ??s still difficult to understand how people who profess to love each other commit such harm. Sometimes itâ??s subtleâ??disparaging, hateful remarks made all too often. Sometimes itâ??s catastrophic--someone goes to the emergency roomâ?¦or the morgue. Many times it falls in the black chasm between the two. Most times itâ??s hidden behind silent walls of â??nobody elseâ??s businessâ??; faltering excuses--â??I tripped on the stepâ??; and, the oppressive generational resignation and acceptance that itâ??s â??just part of life--I probably deserve it.â?? Every time each act of violence eats away at the foundation of the family and erodes this basic building block of our society for generations. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to address, in part, domestic violence. VAWA funds programs that have revealed this silent family killer. It has jump-started efforts to highlight this crime that makes so many homes a prison. The second reauthorization earned Senate approval in October and is currently in a House/Senate conference to work out minor differences and then will be sent to the President. This reauthorization includes provisions for teen victims of dating violenceâ??studies show that without intervention, both victim and perpetrator will likely take on these roles in adult relationships. An important new section specifically addresses violence against Native American womenâ??a population subset that experiences highly disproportionate rates of violence. The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) also funds programs that provide domestic violence prevention and treatment. VOCA funding comes from fines and forfeitures paid by perpetrators in federal courtâ??criminals truly â??payingâ?? for their crime. â??Victim advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts are collaborating in strengthening a systematic approach in the provision of services to victims of violence,â?? observes Sue Fellen, Executive Director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. â??When VAWA was enacted, it really was the catalyst that brought us all together to speak with one voice on domestic violence.â??Diane Blumel, Executive Director of the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victims Assistance notes â??Over the last twenty years, as a result of the awareness, efforts and leadership from individuals throughout the nation, domestic violence victims have experienced communities coming together to remove obstacles in their path. Society is focusing on offenders rather than blaming victims. We make progress as we recognize our individual responsibilities in providing safe environments, working together to rid this country of the horrors of domestic violence.â??These and other individuals and organizations in Idaho dedicate time, talents and resources to help victims of domestic violence. This is physically and mentally exhausting work and I commend them on their commitment and caring. On a final note, men in Idaho have a profound responsibility as responsible husbands, fathers and friends to communicate to those who would harm loved ones that these actions are cowardly, entirely unacceptable and will be punished to the full extent of the law, no matter who they are. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we can reach out every day to those in need in our communities and let perpetrators know that domestic violence will not be tolerated in Idaho.