MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Statistics show that Mount Vernon has the highest rate of domestic violence in Westchester County.
Mount Vernon reported 2,671 domestic violence incidents in 2010, up 16 percent from 2008 when 2,309 incidents were reported. Even so, Mount Vernon police made less arrests for domestic violence in 2010 compared to 2008.
Domestic violence isn't confined to one area of Westchester County; it happens in every town.
Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women show domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and sleepy towns like North Salem. Mount Vernon, per capita, had the highest number of reported cases, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
The latest figures are from 2010, the most recently-available information. Officials say the statistics don't take into account the many rape cases that go unreported.
Nancy Levin, chief development officer at My Sister's Place, a program for domestic violence victims, says many residents living in Westchester don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public health issue,” she said.
Approximately one in five women across the nation have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel. Safsel is director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in the news in recent years.
Most recently, Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after being choked, and her husband, Christopher Howson, has been charged with murder.
Places such as Hope's Door and My Sister's Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. Hope's Door provides a 24-hour, confidential emergency hotline at 888-438-8700. They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, something that's especially important because a growing number of women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin notes it's an issue that crosses all levels of society.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”
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