By Summer Stephan
As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.
I always tell people, “Love shouldn’t hurt.” Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with that since there are about 17,000 domestic violence incidents reported to police every year in San Diego County. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is every October, I would like to spend some time on this topic.
This year, we are focusing on an outreach campaign called “Now is the Time,” which goes beyond raising awareness. It also gives tools to victims, witnesses and offenders to take action, to get help and to make a difference.
Together with the San Diego Domestic Violence Council, the DA’s Office is working to provide the community with a better understanding of how to recognize domestic violence and what to do about it. Around San Diego County, you’ll see billboards directed at domestic violence victims, offenders, and those who see something happening in their community or with their loved ones.
The message is:
Get support: Tell a trusted friend or loved one about the abuse.
Help a friend: Ask, “Are you OK?” and tell them, “You deserve to feel comfortable in your relationship, let’s help you safely get out.”
Recognize the signs: withdrawal, physical injuries, controlling behavior, neglect, and isolation from friends and family.
Take action: Call a hotline to get connected with help and resources 1-800-799-7233.
We want victims to know that help is available to get them out of an abusive relationship and provide protection. We also want friends, families and co-workers to know there is a way they can support someone who is experiencing abuse, and offenders need to know it is possible to stop the cycle of violence. Last year, our office received 6,859 domestic violence cases for review.
A bright spot in the figures show that domestic violence homicide is down. Last year, seven people were killed by their intimate partner, down from 12 the year before and 16 in 2015 – a 50 percent drop in a two-year period. But, even though deaths are down, one person killed is too many.
My office has a Family Protection Division dedicated to prosecuting family violence cases from intimate partner homicide to child abuse and elder abuse. Prosecutors and investigators in this unit work closely with countywide law enforcement and community groups to stop the violence, to make victims safer, and to hold abusers accountable.
Remember, domestic violence tears families apart and is the single greatest cause of injury to women in the United States. If you or someone you know is being abused, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
—District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 28 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.