Getting Answers: increase in domestic violence cases

Getting Answers: increase in domestic violence cases
Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(WGGB/WSHM) - Local officials report that domestic violence is widespread and on the rise in western Massachusetts. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is now helping raise funds for the overwhelming number of victims who have come forward amid the pandemic.

“We had women coming in with a broken arm, women coming in with black eyes, women coming in with blood all over them saying, ‘You gotta help me,’” said Liz Dineen, CEO of the YWCA of Western Massachusetts.

The pandemic was a dark time for victims of domestic violence, who were trapped at home with their abusers. Dineen said those seeking safety at the YWCA of Western Massachusetts went up by 33 percent.

Over 1,630 survivors sought services statewide, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“He said I’m going to be his or no one else,” said one Springfield woman, who wanted her identity hidden.

That woman began dating a man. It all seemed too good to be true and it was.

“This is a movie, like, I could do a movie with how obsessed this man is with me and I had red flags and I didn’t pay attention to them,” she explained.

She said her boyfriend first hit her in November, but his over-the-top apology convinced her he would change.

“That’s when you start thinking, ‘Well, he’s really sorry’ and then he treated me like a queen, ‘What can I do for you?’ ‘You don’t have to do anything,’” she added.

The abuse continued verbally with name-calling and cheating accusations until, while driving with him in the car one day, she finally broke up with him.

“…And then he started punching me while I’m driving and I’m trying to put the brakes because I don’t want to hit somebody and kill somebody with my car, and I’m just thinking about that and I’m telling him stop, stop, stop,” she explained.

This woman survived what Dineen said it the most dangerous moment in an abusive relationship.

“When a woman finally says that’s enough, the abuser knows he’s lost control and when he’s lost control, he’s the most dangerous because he’s going to do whatever it takes to gain control, including killing that person,” Dineen said.

Last year, there were 15 homicides linked to domestic violence in Massachusetts, according to Jane Doe Inc. Hampden County Sherriff Nick Cocchi said the arrest-release cycle can be dangerous.

“When the person goes to court, the family member has pressure put on them by the person who victimized them and, a lot of times, they won’t press charges,” Cocchi explained.

He said domestic abuse arrests are up 22 precent and in a one-week span recently, 14 people facing domestic abuse-related charges were arrested, then released by the courts.

“When you arrest someone and let them out within 24 hours, they’re emboldened, they feel empowered, and they go home. They beat the crap out of the person that put them into jail,” Dineen noted.

The pair are advocating for the Dangerousness Bill, which failed to pass this legislative session. It would offer courts more options to keep defendants charged with abuse detained.

“We don’t just want to put a pause. We want to then reduce the amount of domestic violence happening. We want to be able to get people into treatment, so they can manage their issues,” Cocchi said.

Anger management, substance abuse, and mental health counseling to get to the root of the problem. Support is also needed for the whole family, especially the kids.

“So they can learn healthy relationships, they can learn how to voice frustration and anger, instead of being in a situation where they’re repeating what they saw at home,” Dineen added.

Hundreds of kids are on a waitlist for a program at the YWCA for those who witness violence. As more women feel empowered to come forward, more funding is needed to hire a fifth social worker and to provide housing to the hundreds of women they serve who sometimes need to be relocated as abusers can be relentless.

“We’ve had abusers come to the YWCA pretending to be a priest, pretending to be a lawyer, pretending to be a physician,” Dineen explained.

The survivor we spoke with said she declined a spot at the shelter because she cares for her adult disabled son. Instead, she’s living in fear of her abuser.

“I sleep on this couch and watch the windows at night. I don’t want him to come here,” she said.