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Curbing domestic violence
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Domestic Violence Awareness Month takes place each year in October. The problem is of such a magnitude as to warrant national recognition with annual reminders. Society concerns itself with this problem firstly because millions of people in America fall victim to domestic violence each year. The second effect of it is economic, which causes billions of dollars lost to decreased work productivity, incarceration, medical and psychological expenses and employment absences.

Males and females of all ages can be domestic violence victims. And to qualify as a crime, physical injuries need not be present. The harm can come in the form of mental abuse, physical abuse or both. Statistics indicate that one out of three women, at one time or another, end up as victims of domestic violence. The [reported] rate of female victimization is some 10 times greater than their male counterparts, so it is fair to say that domestic violence is a male-dominated crime.

Considering that the population of the United States is close to 305 million people, of which approximately half are female, the number of potential victims is in the tens of millions. As a nation we can and must do better than that; after all, we claim to be a civilized nation. Physical and mental abuse are not commonly known as elements of having a civilized society. Having social and legal standards that rail against domestic violence are, indeed, strong indicators of a society that wants to reach a high level of civility. It is clear that the people of this country, and hence the legal system, seek a society that is free of domestic violence.

Domestic violence often starts in the form of mild abuse that most victims do not bother to report. The problem is that once the pattern starts, it almost always intensifies over the course of time, with each event becoming more and more violent. In the worst cases, the victim gets killed, while others suffer serious injuries.

Many victims believe they cannot escape their man-made hell, owing primarily to their dependence on their partners, or, they feel that nothing can help them correct the problems. The first step is to address the problem before it grows to serious dimensions. Angry, heated outbursts should be dealt with as a precursor to physical violence. Both the victim and aggressor should, without delay, seek counseling to help avert future, bigger problems. Anger management, legal consequences education and plain appropriate behaviour training is in order for both parties.

State laws throughout the nation give special consideration to the domestic violence problem. They provide for rigorous enforcement, as well as mechanisms to treat the entirety of the problem. In other words, the handling of these cases is not limited only to the defendant's prosecution; the victims' physical, emotional, and family needs are also addressed.

The police of California, in particular, are well-trained to recognize domestic violence for the problem that it is. They investigate these cases accordingly and make the appropriate referrals to the district attorney's office, the courts, and social service agencies. The Haven Women's Center of Stanislaus, 577-5980, provides outstanding services for domestic violence victims. The Soroptimist International of Ceres group also takes a keen interest in domestic violence prevention. It does so by providing domestic violence "hotline" phone numbers, which are distributed throughout the community in discreet, women-only locations. They also donate funds to various women's assistance organizations and engage in public awareness-raising activities through the various media.

The human suffering and economic impacts of domestic violence is almost incalculable, but we all know that it is a serious and pervasive problem in this society. It must be stopped, and the abusers given no leniency. I can assure the people of our community that our law enforcement officers take a zero-tolerance stance against those who commit domestic violence. Those who assault or injure their partners will go to jail and face rigorous prosecution. If you are a victim, trust the system and call the police. For the violators, get involved in counseling and do whatever else is necessary to stop the cycle.