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YAKIMA, Wash. — Over the past year-and-a-half since the Yakima Domestic Violence Coalition was created and began tracking data, police have responded to 2,688 incidents of intimate partner violence.
That works out to at 157 people per month or five people every day in the Yakima community who are scared enough for their own safety or the safety of those around them to call police. That’s not counting the 500 calls the Yakima YWCA gets to its 24/7 helpline each month.
Yakima Police Lt. Chad Janis said the coalition — made up of police, officials from the city, county, state and federal governments, prosecutors, advocates, business owners and more — is giving them hope for a solution to the city’s epidemic of intimate partner violence.
“We’re trying to provide safety to people that have not had it in their home, in the place where they should feel the safest,” Janis said.
Janis said coalition members meet every morning to make sure none of their cases fall through the cracks and so they can brainstorm ideas for which agencies can best provide the resources the victim or their family needs.
For some, that means addressing basic concerns for their safety and wellbeing that may be preventing them from seeking help. Janis said in one case, it was an unpaid power bill, which a service provider was able to pay for the victim.
“If the reason somebody doesn’t ask for help is because they’re in fear of their power being turned off, that’s something we can address as a community,” Janis said.
At other times, it means using expedited warrants to arrest suspects who ran before police arrived and get them off the streets to give victims a chance to think. Janis said previously, if a suspect was “gone on arrival,” it could take weeks or months to get a warrant.
“That allows that victim or survivor just a moment in time to make decisions where they’re not under the pressure of the offender,” Janis said.
Janis said they’ve also been looking into factors that seem to exacerbate abusive situations, such as the insecurity that comes with unemployment or substance abuse issues. He said they’re working to determine whether providers or coalition partners could help a suspect get a job or into treatment as a way to potentially prevent further violence.
“It’s a matter of finding those resources, funding those resources, and for some people, stopping the violence means putting them in jail,” Janis said.
However, in cases where domestic violence offenses aren’t enough to keep the repetitively violent offenders in custody and away from their victims, the coalition can sometimes turn to their federal partners.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington Vanessa Waldref said they’re targeting domestic violence suspects who have also committed crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction.
“Individuals with long-term domestic violence backgrounds who also have firearms are potentially the right focus for us to bring federal firearms charges to be able to ensure victim safety, law enforcement safety and community safety,” Waldref said.
ASPEN Victim Advocacy Services program manager Debbie Brockman said there’s often a misconception among communities that getting to safety means a victim leaving their abuser.
“We have this idea, and it comes out of, I think, out of frustration. It comes from a really good place, but the idea that leaving equals safety,” Brockman said. “For a lot of victims, leaving equals death.”
Brockman said statistics show 60% of domestic violence homicides in Washington state occur as the victim is leaving or after they’ve already left.
Those statistics are what the coalition is up against. They’re working to address the deeper wounds of domestic violence, prioritize prevention and make sure they’re doing everything they can to not to add another name to the list of intimate partner violence fatalities in Yakima.
The Yakima Domestic Violence Coalition is always looking for new partners to join their efforts. Anyone interested in learning more can attend their monthly meetings, which are open to the public.
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