August 21, 2009

FAMILY VIOLENCE IN IDAHO

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Last month, I wrote about the rise in the incidence of family violence during times of economic recession. A few days later, a young boy went missing in Boise. Since then, Idaho has learned more about this heartbreaking story, and now, his mother and her boyfriend have been charged with his death. This case is an example of how awful family violence can be and should give us motivation to do everything we can to prevent family violence in all of its forms. 

The alleged events of this case are similar to many others that I have learned of in many of my visits with abuse victims in shelters around Idaho. The emotional and physical effects of family violence became very real to me in 1998 during a visit to a safe house for children in Twin Falls County. During this deeply moving visit, I met children who had been victims of child abuse. Their story and the lasting effects of abuse on their lives greatly affected me and moved me to make abuse and family violence prevention a constant priority in my public service. 

During visits such as this, I have gained a deeper understanding of the severity of family violence and its negative effect on individuals, families, and communities. Through regular visits to Idaho shelters and briefings by local and state domestic violence abuse prevention advocates, I remain involved and active with this issue on the federal level. My efforts at the federal level have included improving and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act, promoting public-private partnerships to support those who are victims in their own homes, working to increase public awareness of the issue and working to help victims to know there is help available. 

Family violence is something we must all work to prevent. The first and most immediate thing we can do to prevent family violence is to be aware and watch for it. Community vigilance, personal situational awareness and good old-fashioned common sense are essential to prevention. Pay attention to what is happening around you and don't hesitate to help someone who you suspect might be in trouble. Vigilance demands that we speak up, point out, notice our surroundings and listen to our instinct. It is always better to err on the side of caution. 

Donating money and volunteering time to your local shelter is another good way to help. Many shelters in Idaho are underfunded and have difficulty maintaining sufficient staff and resources. Due to long-term uncertainty and stiff competition for federal Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Crime Act support, family violence intervention and prevention advocacy organizations cannot survive without local support through donations and volunteering. These organizations make a critical difference in the character and quality of our communities. They provide needed services to victims and education to communities, helping promote healing that leads to self-sufficiency and self-respect.

Cases of family violence, such as the recent case in Boise, occur every day, and, so, we must work on prevention and raising awareness every day. I encourage you to make an effort to learn about the groups working to prevent family violence in your area and get involved with the shelters working to heal its negative effects. For more information about child abuse, family and dating violence prevention, education and awareness initiatives and related legislation I've been working on, please visit my website: http://crapo.senate.gov.

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