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Community Matters: It’s Not October, But Let’s Talk About it Anyways

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Over the past several months I have researched my ancestry online, connecting with 3rd and 4th cousins whom I have never met. In that research, through old news articles and death records, I learned and confirmed stories of domestic violence and murder in our family in the early 1900s.

These revelations have increased my interest in learning more about and preventing intimate partner violence.

For the past nine months I have led my sorority’s international domestic violence policy efforts and have become more frustrated with the slow progress in eliminating this deadly issue. Understanding that it is a complicated problem, I use every avenue to remind myself and others of the impact that it has on our communities. According to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, every 9 seconds, another woman in the U.S. is beaten. Of course, women aren’t the only victims; men are simply less likely to report the abuse.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization expired in 2018, and the 2021 version was reintroduced recently by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). The reauthorization is a priority for President Biden who has led its reauthorization since 1994. The new bill builds upon the previous versions of VAWA, aims to improve access to housing for victims and survivors, protects victims of dating violence from firearm homicide, and helps survivors gain and maintain economic independence.

During the 2021 General Assembly session, HB 1992 was introduced by Delegate Kathleen Murphy, and prohibits a person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm. The prohibition expires three years after the date of conviction, at which point the person’s firearms rights are restored, unless he receives another disqualifying conviction. A person who violates the provisions of the bill is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. A similar bill that was introduced by Senator Barbara Favola which would have made it a Class 3 misdemeanor, was defeated by the Senate. HB 1992 is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Domestic violence doesn’t only affect the perpetrator and the survivor. It can have a lasting impact on family members, and we can eradicate intimate partner violence by starting with our youth. The Centers for Disease Control program, “Dating Matters”, is designed for local entities (e.g.,health departments, boys and girls clubs), and employs evidence-based strategies and a community-driven approach to educate youth, parents, educators, schools, and neighborhoods about healthy relationships to stop dating violence before it starts.

We are extremely fortunate to live in a community that has invested resources in addressing domestic violence, and COVID-19 has placed even more families at risk. Doorways’ 24-hour domestic and sexual violence hotline provides an immediate, safe response for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Arlington County’s Project PEACE is a coordinated community response dedicated to advancing the most effective and efficient array of education, prevention, protection, and support services to end domestic and sexual violence in our community. You can learn more about Project PEACE online.

There are too many people who still believe that domestic violence is the “dirty little family secret” that we can’t address. If you or someone you know needs support because of intimate partner violence please reach out to Doorways 24-hour hotline at 703-237-0881 and the Arlington County Police Department at 9-1-1.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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