DE Tackles Domestic Violence; Officials Warn Its Still A Problem


DELAWARE - One in four women across the nation have been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and for men, one in seven.

However, domestic violence is as much a state-wide issue in Delaware.

"It is a big problem, I think it's consistently been a big problem for a long time," says Marcey Rezack, a licensed clinical social worker and program director of the safe program at People's Place.

It's a problem that has come a long way in Delaware. At one time, they were the only state that did not allow victims to file a "protection from abuse order" in court, also known as a PFA. In many cases, it orders the abuser to stay away from the person being abused.

"Now we have a very good law," says Rezack. "It also covers teens, and it covers gays and lesbians, and that's not always the case in every state."

"I think the trend seems to be going down which is a wonderful thing," says Jennifer Lilje, a forensic nurse at Bayhealth in Delaware. "I think that's a result of us becoming more aware and more resources in our community to help those people."

Despite their major strides, unfortunately, the fight is far from over. More than 27,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to law enforcement in the first state last year. This does not include the many people that were abused and did not report the case, which officials say 90 to 95 percent of the time, involve women victims.

"Finances is a big reason why people go back into an abusive relationship," says Lilje.

"It makes it very hard to leave, and it makes it very hard to be successful when people do leave," says Rezack. "People need a lot of resources to be able to do that."

People's Place tries to provide that stability for people, and to give financial literacy education, as well as provide shelter. However, they say their shelters always tend to be full.

"We actually can't handle the work load of how many people come forward and need help," says Rezack. "We really need more money to be able to provide hotel stays until we can get people into shelter, it's pretty serious."

To tackle the problem, Delaware law enforcement, the court system, hospitals such as Bayhealth, groups like "People's Place," and others, have joined forces.

"We're trying to work really hard on a coordinated response, so we can all work together."

One group, the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC), made up of advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, and community organizations, work together to enhance victim safety. Bayhealth gives a variety of educational seminars about domestic violence to many of the schools in Delaware, and Lilje says schools should look into starting the conversation at an even younger age.

"If we start at that level, we might have fewer and fewer women who are abused. Unfortunately there is a trend, and if children are in a home and they see it happening, they may think it is OK because their parents do it."

Officials say that although it is extremely difficult, solving the problem starts with the victim coming forward.

"This is a decision that needs to come from themselves," says Lilje. "We just need them to be open with people and hopefully they'll disclose that information to someone and get help."

For more information on domestic violence services in Delaware, visit the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence website. To find out how you can help People's Place, visit their website.

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