Special to Iredell Free News

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Mooresville Police Department would like to take this opportunity to make people aware of the problem and what is being done about it at the local level. In an effort to inform and engage the residents of both Mooresville and Iredell County, the department will be producing a weekly column this month. This week’s column focuses on local and national statistics, and debunks some common misconceptions about domestic violence.

The unfortunate truth is that domestic violence is the most reported violent crime to law enforcement, even though studies show that most incidents are never reported. Not everyone will read this information, reach out for help, leave their abuser, or survive a domestic violence incident, but more and more people are taking back their lives, holding their abusers accountable, and taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and prevent further abuse. There have been many changes over the years in the way domestic violence is viewed by the public and the courts, as well as how law enforcement responds to it.

The term “domestic violence” is interchangeable with terms such as “intimate partner violence” and “family violence,” among others. The State of North Carolina defines domestic violence as “the commission of an assault or attempted assault, or sexual offenses, or communicating threats against, or continued harassment of a victim or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of the victim by an offender with whom the victim has or has had a personal relationship but does not include acts of self-defense.”

Until recently, state law defined “personal relationship” as current or former spouses; persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together; related as parents and children (or as grandparents and grandchildren); having a child in common; current or former household members; or persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship. On December 31, 2020, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that people who are or have been in a dating relationship with a same-sex partner are equally protected against domestic violence as persons in opposite-sex relationships placed in a similar situation.

There are several common misconceptions that exist when many people discuss domestic violence. The following are just a few that come up on a regular basis:

MYTH: Domestic violence is rare and doesn’t happen in Mooresville.

REALITY: Data shows that on average 20 people are abused in the U.S. every minute by an intimate partner. Between 2016-2018, the number of intimate partner victimizations in the U.S. increased 42 percent. Locally, 826 cases of domestic violence were reported in Mooresville last year and are currently trending 43.8 percent higher in 2021. About 59 percent of all reported assaults in Mooresville are related to domestic violence.

MYTH: Women abuse men as much as men abuse women.

REALITY: There is no denying that many women are charged as the predominant aggressor in cases of domestic violence. However, local, state, and national data clearly indicate that the most common scenario of domestic violence involves a male abuser against a female victim. National studies show that one in four women experience physical or sexual violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S., compared to one in nine men. According to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, there were 134 homicides related to domestic violence in 2020, with 57 percent of the victims being female and 74 percent of the offenders male. Locally, 81.4 percent of all domestic violence incidents reported in Mooresville involve a female victim and male offender. Domestic violence is most common against women between the ages 18-24.

MYTH: What happens between intimate partners is their business and doesn’t affect others.

REALITY: The truth is victims of domestic violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year and this crime costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually. On average, 40 percent of victims of domestic violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from domestic abuse.

MYTH: Domestic violence always involves physical violence.

REALITY: Many cases of domestic abuse reported to law enforcement are the culmination of a history of escalating incidents that result in violence. Studies show that, on average, domestic abuse occurs five times before law enforcement is ever contacted and seven times before the victim leaves his or her abuser for the first time. An organization in Duluth, Minn., created what’s known as the “Power and Control Wheel” to graphically illustrate the various tactics an abuser uses to keep victims in the relationship, including threats, intimidation, children, finances, isolation, and victim blaming. Many survivors of domestic abuse report seeing the warning signs of their abuser’s behavior, such as verbal or emotional abuse, earlier in the relationship but do not leave for the very reasons depicted in the “Power and Control Wheel.” The sometimes subtle or hidden signs make it difficult for family members or bystanders to intervene and even harder for many victims to admit.

MYTH: If she would just leave him, the problem would be solved.

REALITY: As illustrated in the “Power and Control Wheel,” it’s not that easy and may involve careful planning by the victim to ensure his or her safety as well as the safety of others. The decision to leave an abuser is one of the most dangerous points in the relationship because the abuser may escalate the violence when he or she feels like they’ve lost control of the victim. One in two female murder victims, and approximately one in 13 male murder victims, are killed by an intimate partner each year. Some 65 percent of all murders are perpetrated by intimate partners and 96 percent of the victims in those cases are female.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors involved in domestic violence that are rarely resolved quickly or easily. People in crisis may be overwhelmed with trying to figure out what to do and how to do it, and often cannot do it alone. In the coming weeks, readers will learn more about what the Mooresville Police Department and its partners with the Domestic Violence Task Force of Iredell are doing collectively and individually, as well as what local and regional resources are available to persons in need.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, we urge you to contact MPD’s Special Victims Detectives or Community Resource Coordinator at (704) 664-3311.

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