GUEST COLUMN: Shining the light on domestic violence in October

Ragan Lake

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a public health problem. According to the CDC, approximately one in four women and one in 10 men have experienced physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. Given the pervasiveness of this problem, I thought I would discuss some of the help domestic violence survivors need to end the cycle of abuse, and draw attention to a local organization that offers numerous support services to survivors.

As an assistant prosecutor in Wayne County, I have prosecuted hundreds of domestic violence cases. These cases range from misdemeanors through homicide. Although domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence) is generally thought of as being committed by a man against his wife, girlfriend or mother of his child, men can also be victims. Additionally, domestic violence can occur in same-sex relationships, between parent and adult child and platonic roommates. It also occurs at all socio-economic levels.

Domestic violence does not have to be a punch or a slap. Pushing someone or even threatening an individual when the perpetrator has the ability to do harm constitutes domestic violence.

Many offenders will attempt to exert control of a domestic violence victim by isolating him/her from friends and family. Victims with children and/or pets are particularly vulnerable as the offender might threaten to harm the children or pets to coerce the victim into staying in the abusive relationship.

Most domestic violence crimes are usually perpetrated against a woman by her male intimate partner. According to an analysis of homicide data published by the Violence Policy Center, in 2018, nationwide 92 percent of female homicide victims were murdered by a male they knew. Of those homicide victims who knew the perpetrator, 63 percent were wives or had been in some type of intimate relationship with the offender (e.g., ex-wife, girlfriend, etc.).

In my experience, many female domestic violence victims are reluctant to prosecute, even when the alleged abuser has assaulted them before. This can be because the abuser is financially supporting her, and if she leaves the abuser she will be homeless. Also, many women in an abusive relationship have been abused in a prior relationship, so they don’t know the dynamics of a healthy relationship.

Providing resources to domestic violence survivors is crucial to the fight against this public health problem. Survivors might need shelter as they “get on their feet,” and counseling to help learn the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

In Livingston County, we are fortunate to have LACASA Center, which offers a number of support services to domestic violence survivors. On Oct. 1, LACASA is hosting a virtual Glow Gathering to show support for victims of domestic violence. It is asking members of the community to shine purple lights in support. LACASA even offers light kits through the LACASA Collection, which also provides monetary support to the organization to help it achieve its mission.

I urge all Livingston County residents to help spread awareness of domestic violence by shining a purple light at their home or workplace during the month of October. With greater community awareness, perhaps we’ll eventually be able to defeat domestic violence.

Ragan Lake, an assistant Wayne County prosecutor, is running for Livingston County Prosecutor as part of a slate of Democrats opposed to gerrymandering, which includes County Clerk candidate Jordan Genso and County Treasurer candidate Dan Luria.

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