In the first half of 2009 alone, 7,737 domestic violence offenses occurred in Memphis, which was a 7.4% increase from the year before.These offenses include simple assaults and burglaries as well as aggravated assaults and murders (Janikowski & Reed, 2009). Across the country, one in four women becomes the victim of domestic violence. When these women have children, they are more likely to be single, low-income, minority mothers. The children who grow up in these families are already at risk for delayed brain development, but the stress of witnessing violence between their parents further increases that risk for lifelong negative cognitive, social, and emotional development. In Shelby County, about half of the women who are victims of domestic violence have children under 18 living with them and more than half of those women say their children have witnessed domestic violence (For more, read our Domestic Violence in Memphis brief).
A Safe Place for Victims of Domestic Violence
Fortunately, our community has recognized the dangers of domestic violence and provides families with many resources. One such resource is the newly established Family Safety Center, a safe harbor in Memphis for families caught in the trauma of domestic violence and family crisis. Their mission is to provide one location that effectively combines civil, criminal, health and social services for victims of family violence. Combining these resources in one locations intends to reduce the stress and chaos these families face when trying to seek help during such an overwhelming time.
The Family Safety Center plays a vital role in the community’s growing multi-level response to domestic violence. In 2005, leaders and citizens in our city came together and created the Operation: Safe Community Plan to address crime in our community. One strategy of the Plan called for the creation of a coordinated community response to domestic violence. This initiative has caught the attention and support of law enforcement and the justice system, nonprofit service providers and advocates for victims, the news media and many others in schools and neighborhoods. Collaboration is essential as The Family Safety Center will play a major role in preventing and reducing the incidents of violence in families in Memphis.
Helping Victims Recover
The Family Safety Center utilizes specific programs and resources to create better lives for families victimized by domestic violence. This may include helping with emergency needs, legal support, police interdiction, counseling for adults and children, healthcare and many other services that are required when domestic violence strikes. The Family Safety Center believes in a team approach, in which multiple agencies and government offices work hand in hand to give appropriate assistance to people threatened by violence.
At least 52 percent of all crimes against persons in Shelby County involve domestic violence. The fear, stress, and self-blame that often accompany exposure to family violence are traumatic for children and can have long-term consequences. The negative effects of exposure to domestic violence include low self-esteem, sleep disturbances, physical symptoms, aggressive behavior, and impaired social development (The Urban Child Institute 2010). The Family Safety Center is one safe haven that Memphis families can turn to in order to ensure healthy emotional brain development for children exposed to the stresses of domestic violence. In addition, the Family Safety Center seeks to improve our community by raising awareness and trying to lower domestic violence incidents.
Janikowski, R., & Reed, L. (2009, July). Domestic violence trends: City of Memphis January-June, 2006-2009. Operation Safe Community Working Paper 4. Retrieved from: http://www.fscmemphis.com/osc.pdf