Friday, September 29, 2017
Billy Long: We can all work together to end domestic violence
A few years ago, I noticed an unsettling trend in local news coverage: a significant increase in stories about domestic violence. Many people are aware that domestic violence occurs, but they never think it will happen in their backyard. This spike in coverage served as a wakeup call. It made clear that we all have an obligation as and residents of southwest Missouri to be a voice for the victims of these horrible acts.
On average, 20 people are victims of domestic violence every minute in the United States. That’s over 10 million people annually. In the United States, 35 percent of women who visit the emergency room are victims of domestic violence. In 2016 there were over 44,000 incidents of domestic violence in Missouri alone.
In early 2015, I met with members of Harmony House, a shelter for domestic violence victims located in Springfield. It was jarring to not only see their cramped and aging location, but also to hear that they were turning away over 1,000 women annually simply due to a lack of space. I immediately began working to organize a district-wide domestic violence roundtable discussion that brought together groups from across southwest Missouri, including shelters, law enforcement, city government officials and business leaders. We discussed what measures could be taken both locally and nationally to get those in crisis the help they so desperately need. This meeting, along with the diligent efforts of business leaders and other advocates, directly led to help get Harmony House into their new location where they no longer have to turn away those in need due to space restrictions.
Domestic violence is a nonpartisan issue, and it can affect anyone regardless of political affiliation or socioeconomic status. I am thankful for the resources we have in southwest Missouri, and the incredible work that organizations and individuals do in such difficult situations. However, I believe that we can do more to address this problem. I plan to soon visit a domestic violence center out of state that offers comprehensive services in a single location to victims of domestic and sexual violence. This visit will allow me to see and bring back some of this shelter’s best practices and innovations to southwest Missouri and see how we as a community can improve our response and resources for those in need.
No one should have to endure the physical and emotional anguish associated with domestic violence alone. I believe that moving forward we can all work together to end domestic violence, but when it occurs we must be able to give people the best care possible