March 17, 2008

Forum Spotlights Domestic Violence

We commend Theta Xi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority on UL's campus, for sponsoring a forum on one of this area's major problems, domestic violence. The sorority brought together a counselor, police officer, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and a representative from Stuller Place. The need for the forum was accented by two tragedies.

Keosha Spikes, a member of the sorority, was killed Jan. 25 by her boyfriend, who later killed himself.

Tonya Major, a UL nursing student, was killed Feb. 10 by the father of her 1-year-old son.

The president of the Theta Xi chapter, Sheraya Bernard, said the forum was designed to pay tribute to the two victims and "to educate the public on how prevalent domestic violence is in this community."

According to Billi Lacombe, executive director of Faith House, the forum is the start of an ongoing dialogue on the campus about domestic violence.

It is a critical problem throughout the state. In 2000, Louisiana ranked as the fifth worst state in the nation in the frequency of men murdering women. The 2007 report by the Violence Policy Center shows that things have worsened. Louisiana now ranks third worst in the nation for men killing women.

The effects of deadly domestic violence reach far beyond the victim. Of immense concern is the effect of violence in the home on children. The Violence Policy Center says such children are four times more likely to become violent juvenile offenders and to commit or suffer violence when they reach adulthood.

If human concern is not sufficient motivation, then the impact on all of us as citizens and taxpayers should be considered. Caring for battered women is a significant burden on taxpayers. According to a 2006 study by the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, women who are battered have more than twice the health-care needs and costs as those who are never battered. They are disproportionately represented among the homeless and suicide victims. All of this has an impact on the state's public-health system and social services system.

We can help through generous support of Faith House, which offers shelter for abused women; Lafayette's Family Violence Intervention Program, which is working toward a system of education and abuser accountability that will interrupt the cycle of domestic violence; Stuller Place; and other organizations in Acadiana that are engaged in the battle.

People who know of cases of spousal abuse can learn from these agencies the most effective ways to support the victim. Then they can, and should, get involved.

We can also demand that all law-enforcement officers are trained to deal with spousal abuse.

There are things we can do that may help ease the suffering of innocent women and children and reduce the potential for senseless destruction of human life. It is imperative that we try.

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