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Family Violence Costs Everybody
by Debra Faircloth
Whether we realize it or not, one way or another, we all pay the costs of family violence. Family violence is not a personal problem or a private matter between couples. Family violence is a crime, the most common yet least reported crime in the country. Because domestic violence thrives in silence, it's easy to delude ourselves into thinking that this crime doesn't affect us, but the truth is we pay for family violence in ways we can't imagine. The hidden financial costs of family violence are immense.
What are some of those hidden costs? According to a 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control, the direct medical care, subsequent mental health services, and related costs exceed $8.3 billion annually in the US. The CDC also found that violence results in 18.5 million mental health care visits each year. Why are the costs so high? Battering is the single major cause of injury to American women between the ages of 14 and 44, more than car accidents, rapes, muggings, and other crimes combined.
Battering not only costs our health care system; it puts a financial strain on the business community as well. A 2007 CDC study revealed that family violence victims lose 8 million days of paid work annually. This loss equals more than 32,000 full-time jobs. Peace@Work, a company specializing in violence in the workplace, tells us that over half of domestic violence victims miss at least 3 days of work each month. All told, businesses lose $3 to $5 billion each year due to the ripple effects of domestic violence.
Currently, there's a debate in our state that domestic violence programs, especially shelter services, are expensive and unnecessary. Recent studies show that interventions save money. A 2002 study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that the $1.6 billion provided by the federal Violence Against Women Act to various prevention programs saved almost $15 billion in net social costs. A 2009 Department of Justice study found that, for every dollar spent on a protective order, society saves $30.75 for each survivor who gets one. Protective orders save taxpayer dollars. In Kentucky, protective orders save $85 million annually.
Cutting funds to domestic violence programs is false economy. We in Louisiana will pay for family violence. We'll pay in deaths if not in dollars. This year our state ranks 4th in family violence homicides. Louisiana is always in the top 5 most dangerous states for women. Other states come and go, but Louisiana always holds a place in this shameful ranking. Our state's 18 domestic violence programs work every day to prevent domestic violence and to protect its victims. They do their vital work on meager budgets. Federal, state, and individual money spent on our state's family violence programs is money well invested, not just in our lethal present but in a violence-free future.
Support the domestic violence program nearest you. In order to help DART in Grant Parish, call me at 899-5296. No family in Louisiana should ever be afraid to go home.
Debra Faircloth, who has worked in the field of domestic violence for over twelve years, is currently DART's Grant Parish Rural Advocate. During her career, she has frequently qualified as an expert witness. She has also conducted numerous trainings on family violence at the local and state level. Her family violence column ran in the Ruston Daily Leader for four years. She's also frequently published in the Colfax Chronicle.