EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Both Eastchester and Tuckahoe have seen a slight increase in reported domestic violence incidents between 2010 and 2008, but each has fared better than most other communities in Westchester County.
Domestic violence isn't confined to one area of Westchester County; it happens in every town. Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women show domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and smaller-population areas like North Salem. Mount Vernon, per capita, had the highest number of reported cases; followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
The latest figures are from 2010, the most recently available information. Officials say the statistics don't take into account the many rape cases that go unreported.
New York state changed the definition of domestic violence in 2008, expanding it to include more than just spouse-to-spouse incidents.
Eastchester reported 86 incidents in 2008 and 120 in 2010, an increase of 40 percent. Tuckahoe saw 89 incidents in 2008 and 98 in 2010, an increase of 10 percent.
Nancy Levin, Chief Development Officer at My Sisters' Place, an organization that counsels women and children who’ve been victims of domestic abuse, says many residents living in Westchester don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend, or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public-health issue,” she said.
Approximately one in five women across the nation have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel. She is director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” Safsel said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.” And Safsel added, many cases go unreported.
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence cases in the news in recent years, including Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, who died in January after she was reportedly choked. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Locally, organizations such as Hope's Door and My Sisters' Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. Hope's Door provides a 24-hour, confidential emergency hotline at 888-438-8700. They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship -- something that's especially important because a growing number of women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin notes that it's an issue across the board. “Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”
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