Domestic violence is a public health epidemic, advocates say

CINCINNATI -- Kristin Shrimplin says domestic violence is nothing short of a public health epidemic. She points to these troubling statistics to back up her case: Domestic violence has affected one in three women, one in four men and one in three teenagers. And it crosses all socio-economic lines.

Shrimplin, president and CEO of Women Helping Women, says it's time to start preventing domestic violence in the first place.

"We are serving record-breaking numbers of survivors," she said. "We haven't seen this in the history of our agency, and we've been around 43 years. So it really begs the question what is going on in our community around domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence. So we need more staff, we need more funding, and specifically, we need to do more in prevention, because we can't keep (just) putting out the fires."

Kristin Shrimplin. Photo courtesy Women Helping Women

Domestic violence can look like a look of things, but at its core, Shrimplin says it's abusive behavior centered around power and control in a relationship. It could be emotional, verbal, psychological or financial, or it can be sexual and physical. And it can be lethal.

Rhonda Tucker, a domestic violence advocate who works at Legal Aid, lost friend and coworker Kathryn Bruce to domestic violence in 2003. Bruce's relationship was a whirlwind, Tucker said.

"Everything was perfect, and they got married, and shortly after being married, things started to get a little rocky," she said.

Within 10 years, Bruce couldn't take the abuse anymore, Tucker said.

"She was over at my house the night before, and we were talking about it, and I asked her to stay. I said, 'You know what? Don't go back. Just stay with us.' And she was like, 'No, I don't think so.' And I asked her the hard question. I said -- because we both worked here at Legal Aid and we were both very involved with the family law team -- and I asked her, 'Do you think he would kill you?' And she said, 'Oh, no, he would never do that.'"

That's typical of most cases, Tucker said: People never think their abusers would kill them "because they think that it's their fault or it's going to be OK."

Bruce died later that night. Her husband was sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter.

"The coroner’s report listed it as strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head," Tucker said.

Shrimplin and Tucker are taking part in a candelight vigil at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Tuesday night; part of the ceremony is remembering Bruce and others like her. Tucker's spent more than a decade wondering if she could have said more, could have done more.

"We support the survivor.  We try to provide hope to those that are left, to clean up the pieces of their lost loved one. Many times there are children involved, and with Kathy, it's just a big empty spot because she was such a big part of everyone’s life here. And such a full-of-life person. She was theatrical.  She was creative. You could ask her to do anything and she would. And she’s been missed since 2003."

Last year, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network reported that 90 adults and 11 children were killed because of domestic violence. Nationally, there were 1,400 people killed. Since January, Hamilton County has seen three domestic violence homicides since January, according to Erika Yingling, Director of Family & Community Intervention for YWCA of Greater Cincinnati.

If you go

She Screams Without Sound: Remembering Our Loved Ones, Supporting Survivors and Restoring Hope
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016
6:15 p.m.
Hamilton County Courthouse, 1000 Main St., Cincinnati

"I think often in our communities, we don't ever believe it will come that far, but the reality is that it does. So this is a time for families, other survivors, community activists, advocacy centers, community members to memorialize and look at the lives loss due to domestic violence," Yingling said.

Shrimplin points to a very simple, concrete way to help: "If anyone ever discloses that they're experiencing domestic violence as family members, as friends, as co-workers, first thing we need to tell survivors is I believe you. It's not your fault. And there's help out there if you want to get your voice back and be empowered."

Local resources for people experiencing domestic violence include:

  • The YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, 898 Walnut St., Cincinnati  513-241-7090
  • Safe Passage, multiple locations, Batesville, Indiana: 812-933-1990
  • Eve Center, multiple locations, Greater Cincinnati, 513-985-9959
  • Women Helping Women,  215 E. 9th St., Cincinnati, 513-977-5541
  • Women's Crisis Center of Northern Kentucky: Multiple locations: (859) 491-3335
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