What does domestic violence look like?
There is no one agreed-upon definition for domestic violence, as definitions are inconsistent between jurisdictions reporting statistics (i.e. city and county) as well as sectors (nonprofits, government, healthcare, etc.). Thus, a broad definition of domestic violence, also sometimes referred to as family violence is used and encouraged. Domestic violence is violence or abuse in any form, by one person against another in a domestic (i.e. family) setting, and includes intimate partner violence which is one specific type of domestic violence. DV is a leading cause of homicides in Spokane County.
With the long-term goal of reducing the high rates of domestic and family violence that ravage our community, and the understanding that this is a complex problem, End the Violence Coalition initiated strategic planning in Summer 2020.
End the Violence Coalition engaged over 45 critical partners in collaboratively identifying solutions to move the needle on violence. End the Violence Coalition convened leaders, service providers, public and private agencies, investors, law enforcement, mandatory reporters, survivors, and more to lead the community in a collaborative and collective planning approach. Stakeholders identified resources, gaps in services, and opportunities to address issues around domestic and family violence.
Victim-survivors were asked about their experiences with abuse, reporting and access to services within the Spokane region.
The four most common types of abuse that victim-survivors identified were emotional (90%), intimidation (84%), gaslighting (81%) and physical abuse (69%). Additionally, 55% of victim-survivors indicated that their abuser had used, owned or had access to firearms. This is an important finding since we know that homicide by firearm is the primary cause of death for victims of domestic violence.
Victim-survivors are smart and brave. There are many actions that they take to keep themselves, their children and their pets safe both while living with an abuser and while taking steps to leave. Some of the things that victim-survivors reported doing include:
It is common for victim-survivors to face barriers to accessing and maintaining safety from abuse. Most victim-survivors experience emotional barriers such as fear of not being believed, shame about being abused, and fear that the violence would escalate should they try to leave. Other barriers to finding safety are more tangible such as financial instability, not having a place to go and the complications that can arrive from having children with the abuser. Additionally, a lack of knowledge about available support systems and not understanding or trusting law enforcement and other systems were concerns that made finding safety difficult.
Understanding what victims experience is one of the first steps End the Violence Coalition has taken to help prevent violence in Spokane. Once victim-survivors’ experiences and needs were heard and understood, End the Violence Coalition was able to use that information to inform the 5-year strategic plan. As a community, we can work together to prevent violence, increase safety for victim-survivors and encourage access to equitable services for all people in our community.