SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Overall reported crime in Springfield has decreased according to the Springfield Police Department’s Uniform Crime Report.
Despite this, the Department continues to see an increase in reports of domestic violence.
An open bed is a rare sight at Harmony House, a domestic violence shelter for women and children.
“We continue to operate at capacity,” said Lisa Farmer, Executive Director of Harmony House. “When a bed opens up, it’s generally filled within hours.”
Farmer said it’s a daily challenge faced by her staff.
“For us, that’s 110 women and children every night,” said Farmer. “We’ve seen the demand increase every year for the last four years. That’s the heartbreaking part is that there are women we’re not able to help because of lack of resources.”
According to Springfield Police, the number of aggravated domestic assaults reported increased by 20-percent from 2013 to 2014. Meanwhile, the Victim Center reported an increase in referrals from local law enforcement from 2013 to 2014. Farmer said numbers at Harmony House have also increased.
In 2014, Springfield Police implemented the Lethality Assessment Program. Through a series of questions, officers can identify victims of domestic violence who are the highest risk of being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners. Those individuals are then referred to the 24-hour crisis hotline or are connected to victim advocates.
“I think it’s a combination of increased policing efforts, and the lethality review, public awareness, outreach efforts,” she said. “We may have an increase in actual numbers as well.”
Farmer said the relationship between abusers and victims vary, but all exhibit cycles of abuse.
“It’s about power and control,” she said. “Nationally we know a woman will return to her abuser on average six or seven times. That is just part of the pattern.”
She said, education is key to prevention, before it’s too late.
“I think domestic violence is a community issue,” said Farmer. “It impacts so many sectors of our community. It really is going to take our community to pull together to focus on resolving it.”
Harmony House is set to release their official numbers from 2014 next week.