We may be rushing into the season of happiness and good cheer, but underneath that veneer lies a seasonal undercurrent of stress. In addition to the halting job market, people everywhere are also trying to fill stockings while continuing to pay for heat and rent. The cold weather and diminished daylight also forces people inside where they fight colds, germs and more often each other.
This seasonal trend became evident after just a couple of years as a police officer. Crime statistics, which are typically calculated over a period of years, also vary depending upon obvious elements, such as weather and daylight. Gang-bangers, who use the warmth and extended daylight of summer to reconvene their ongoing gun battles, take much of their business inside come the fall. The shorter, colder days, though, have the opposite effect on people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Many of those people, who enjoyed each other’s company during the lazy days of summer, face off across the dinner table in the winter.
A recent Trib article highlights just how prevalent domestic assaults have become. A full quarter of women polled indicated that they had been either shoved, hit, raped or seriously assaulted by a romantic partner in the course of their lives. That impressive percentage is further maddening because, in many ways, the ubiquitous crimes associated with domestic violence fail to capture our attention. Instead, the front page is reserved for lurid crimes involving deranged individuals whose collective body count pales in comparison to that racked up in domestic violence fatalities each year.
There are very few resources for victims of domestic violence. Most jurisdictions have little to offer a single mother who must flee her home to protect herself and her children. A hotel voucher is, at best, little more than a band aid. Resolving these crises requires support and temporary shelter; then the task requires a long term plan. That plan includes housing, counseling (psychological, financial and career) and other necessities to recreate a life outside the framework of the abuser.
Without a doubt, the best such program in our area is run by the Tacoma-Pierce YWCA. This is more than a shelter: The YWCA is an organization run by some of the brightest and most successful business people in our area, and it is staffed by some of the most dedicated and passionate individuals I have observed during my career. It first came to my attention years ago while driving around in a patrol car, with a battered woman and her two children, looking for a place – any place – for them to spend a safe evening. I was referred to the YWCA shelter.
When I pulled up to the curb the doors opened and staff members spilled out. They quietly took the family inside and gave me every reason to believe that this was a safe and good place for them to be. After numerous return visits and a tour, I now realize that this organization does more to reduce the escalation of domestic violence than any emphasis patrol or warrant sweep I might undertake. I have since became a member of the YWCA’s Public Policy Committee, and I could not be more proud of an organization’s determination and compassion.
As always, the holidays will keep the YWCA very busy. Unfortunately, the new year may see serious reductions to the YWCA’s funding if the state legislature decides to slice off the small amount it provides to this essential organization. That would be a very costly mistake.
I know that this is not a very merry topic for this time of year. But it is an important one.