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Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; the perfect time to highlight progress we've made and the rough road ahead in our march against domestic violence.

We've come a long way in the past few decades concerning public discussions of domestic violence. Women, men and teens are joining community efforts to talk about domestic and dating abuse; slowly, but surely, reducing society's tolerance of these terrible crimes. Violence committed in homes against mothers, children, fathers, or in dating relationships is no longer "not other people's business."

- In Idaho, reported intimate partner violence dipped slightly from 2005 to 2006.

- In Idaho, reported violence against children was down 8.7 percent from 2005 to 2006.

- Nationally, between 1993 and 2004, the rate of nonfatal violence against females 12 and older by an intimate partner went from 10 to 4 per 1,000.

As those in domestic violence prevention advocacy know, simply talking about it can provide a crucial opening for victims seeking help. A conversation can reveal the truth: the violent reality in which a victim lives is abnormal, created by an abuser with one goal in mind-complete control. A conversation can unlock this dreadful prison.

However, our journey toward healthy families and healthy relationships is far from over. In Boise, law enforcement reports more felony domestic violence-related crimes already this year than in all of 2006. In fact, seven of the nine homicides were domestic violence-related. Across Idaho:

- Intimate partner violence decreased by less than two percent between 2005 and 2006: 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 intimate partner violence mentioned above, there were 2,018 incidents of family violence.
Women, in particular Indian women, suffer disproportionately high rates of domestic violence. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1993 and 2004:
- American Indian and Alaskan Native females experienced nonfatal intimate partner violence at the rate of 18.2 per 1,000; this compared to African American females at 8.2 per 1,000, white females at 6.2 per 1,000, American Indian men at 5 per 1,000, African American males at 1.5 per 1,000 and white males at 1.1 per 1,000.

- Approximately 97 percent of females experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence were victimized by a male.
Men are victims, too. Although lower, rates of intimate partner violence against men have remained largely unchanged over the past decade. This is something that must be addressed. From 1993 to 2004:
- About 84 percent of males experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence were victimized by a female; 12 percent of males reported that the offender was another male.

- Nonfatal violent victimization of males 12 and older by intimate partners occurred at the rate of 3 percent.

Chronically under-funded, shelters in Idaho 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 dollars, domestic violence intervention and prevention advocacy organizations cannot survive without local support through funding and volunteers. 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.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Take time to learn about your local shelter as well as domestic and dating violence intervention, prevention and education advocacy organizations. People in your community need help and there are those who can provide it.