The state has a serious and chronic problem with domestic violence, judging from a new Kansas Bureau of Investigation report for 2012 but also from the daily crime news.
Using data from law enforcement agencies around the state, the KBI’s report on Domestic Violence, Stalking and Rape in Kansas found that last year’s reported 24,373 incidents of domestic violence were the most in 20 years of such record keeping, though only a 0.9 percent increase over 2011. The key word is “reported,” as experts believe many more cases occur.
It’s of further concern that fewer arrests were made, 13,193 last year compared with 13,478 in 2011 – though the arrest rate of 54 percent could be worse, and was two decades ago when arrests were made in only 37 percent of such crimes.
The KBI report found that the demographics of domestic violence have remained pretty consistent, with the average victim a white female in her early 20s and the average offender a white male in his 20s, most often a spouse or boyfriend. Incidents tend to occur on weekends, most often between midnight and 4 a.m.
Last year there were 24 homicides in Kansas related to domestic violence. About one-quarter of all homicides, that’s been fairly consistent in Kansas since the shocking 84 percent spike in domestic-violence murders in 2009.
Sedgwick County was the scene of eight of the homicides cited in the 2012 report, with two grandparents and a boyfriend among the victims. The county saw 6,871 reported incidents of domestic violence and a 47.5 percent arrest rate in 2012, according to the report, compared with 7,039 incidents and a 50.2 percent arrest rate in 2011.
And the headlines keep bringing more heartbreak likely to show up in the 2013 statistics, including the recent Valley Center case of a woman allegedly murdered by her adoptive son and three others, and the Parsons quadruple murder last week of a mother and her three young children.
The KBI report expressed the hope that law enforcement agencies, domestic violence programs and sexual assault centers “will work together to develop effective policies, procedures and training activities to assist those involved in responding to the crimes of domestic violence” as well as stalking and rape.
Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, noted that though the Legislature has kept funding for programs to help victims fairly level since 2009, the need for services has continued to grow. She called on “our communities and our governments, both state and federal, to respond to these critical safety issues.”
The public can help as well, by supporting nonprofit organizations that assist survivors of domestic violence such as the YWCA Women’s Crisis Center in Wichita, Catholic Charities’ Harbor House and StepStone.
Whatever can be done to help keep troubled relationships from turning into tragedies, it’s time to do it.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman