The Shadow Pandemic: Domestic Violence Awareness Month Shines a Spotlight on Ohio’s Ongoing Crisis

October 16, 2023

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, shedding light on a pressing concern that continues to plague Ohio. Recent reports paint a distressing picture of the persistent issue of domestic violence in the state. Around two years ago, KJK published an article addressing the rising trends of domestic violence in Ohio. Back then, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) had freshly unveiled a report highlighting the alarming number of fatalities resulting from intimate partner violence in Ohio, covering the period from July 1, 2020, to July 30, 2021 (the 2021 Report).

A Troubling Past: The 2021 Report

In the 2021 Report, it was revealed that between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, there were 131 fatalities associated with intimate partner relationship, taking a look at over 90 reviewed cases. This marked a troubling 62% increase in deaths when compared to the preceding two years. At the time, many Ohio experts and activists in the domestic violence awareness space expressed understandable concern that these trends were, in many ways, a direct result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Current Realities: The 2022 and 2023 Reports

Within the last year and a half, the national economy has mostly opened back up. Many wondered if this would influence the domestic violence trends in Ohio that were clearly on display in the 2021 Report? Sadly, as indicated by recent reports, the recent domestic violence trends in Ohio have continued to be extremely problematic and concerning.

ODVN’s 2022 report concerning intimate partner relationship violence in Ohio (the 2022 Report) revealed that between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, there were 112 fatalities in 72 reviewed cases. While this is a comparatively lower number of fatalities when compared to the 2021 Report, the 2022 Report indicated that 22 of the deaths were children, representing the highest number of youth fatalities since ODVN began tracking these trends on an annual basis in 2015. Alarmingly, 16 of these deaths were children younger than 10 years old, and six of these deaths were infants. The 2022 Report also revealed that 91% of the deaths were caused by guns—a 5% increase from the 2021 Report.

While ODVN has yet to release its 2023 Report, the year-to-date fatality trends that are available for 2023 are similarly concerning to those described in the 2022 Report. For example, in Columbus, Ohio as of June 2023, the year-to-date count of domestic violence-related fatalities in Columbus, Ohio, had already surpassed the total number of such fatalities recorded in the city for the entire year of 2022. Furthermore, ODVN’s reports indicate that as of July 2023, Ohio is on track to match or surpass the 112 domestic violence-related fatalities the state witnessed in 2022.

Even more troubling, intimate partner violence has continued to increase in both level and severity. According to the Journey Center for Safety and Healing, when survivors contacted them prior to the pandemic and completed a 20-question Danger Assessment in order to determine how likely the survivor was to be murdered by their abuser, the average score was 16.2. As of July 2023, the Journey Center for Safety and Healing reports that the average score on the same lethality assessment is 19.6.

A Global Crisis: The “Shadow Pandemic”

As a general matter, the ongoing surge in domestic violence, which has intensified since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, is not just limited to Ohio; it’s a distressing global issue. In fact, these trends have become so troubling in recent years that the United Nations has started referring to it as the “Shadow Pandemic”.

Legal Remedies and Support

So, what legal remedies are available to the ever-increasing survivors of domestic violence in Ohio? Notably, since my original article, the legal remedies available to survivors of domestic violence remain largely unchanged. The possible legal remedies still include, but are not necessarily limited to, obtaining a civil protection order and/or a criminal protection order. These available legal remedies continue to have essentially the same benefits and limitations as they did two years ago.

Despite the same, over the past two years, there is no question that Ohio’s domestic violence activists and advocacy groups have continued to work tirelessly to ensure that adequate resources outside of the legal system, including access to mental health resources, housing, and transportation, also continue to be available to survivors. Most recently, in the summer of 2023, the Ohio Legislature met the call from advocates and passed a $20 million statewide funding increase for various domestic violence services. Critically, this funding increase has raised Ohio’s per capita rates for domestic violence services from 32 cents to 85 cents. However, Ohio’s per capita funding rates for these services still lag behind those of other neighboring states.

Reach Out for Help

Ultimately, if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are resources available to help on a 24/7 basis. For those nationwide, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-SAFE or by going online to their website. For those local to Northeast Ohio, you can reach the Journey Center for Safety and Healing by calling 216-391-HELP or by going online to their website. For those anywhere else in the State of Ohio, you can access the relevant contact information for your locality here.

For questions or guidance on the potential legal relief available to victims of domestic violence, please contact Janet Stewart Scalley (JS@kjk.com), or another member of KJK Family Law by calling 216.696.8700.