October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States. This month provides an opportunity to review the progress we have made since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act 18 years ago, while reminding ourselves that we still have much to do to ensure that our children and grandchildren grow up in an America free of domestic violence.
Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI show that between 1994, when the law was enacted, and 2010, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped by 67 percent nationwide. Between 1993 and 2007, the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner declined 35 percent for women and 46 percent for men.
While this is encouraging, recent data suggest that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men still experience severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
In addition, estimates are that more than 2 million adults and more than 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year, and every day an average of three women in the U.S. die as a result of domestic violence. In economic terms, domestic violence costs our nation $8 billion annually in lost productivity and health-care costs.
Domestic violence can happen between current and former spouses, current and former boyfriends and girlfriends, people who cohabitate and those who don't live together.
Domestic violence is a problem that affects people of every background, ethnicity, age, ability and sexual orientation.
It impacts not only the immediate victims but their families, neighbors, friends and, indeed, their entire communities. Domestic violence impacts all of us, and none of us is immune.
The Department of Justice has strengthened the criminal justice response to violence against women in several ways since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.
Since 2009, the Department of Justice has awarded a record number of grants, totaling more than $1.5 billion, to states, territories, local and tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations to launch, sustain and strengthen activities related to combating violence against women. These investments have supported a wide variety of critical efforts and initiatives aimed at preventing domestic-violence homicide, teen-dating violence and sexual assaults, and improving the reporting and investigation of these crimes.
On average, the Violence Against Women Act grant funds have trained more than 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, victim advocates and other personnel every year.
Those grant funds have also provided services to more than 700,000 victims. A total of $41,334,822 in grants has been awarded statewide in Arizona since 2009, and $11,678,941 has been awarded to government and nonprofit organizations in Pima County.
Of special concern is the impact of domestic violence on children who are victimized by, or who witness, violence in their families or communities.
These children are at a higher risk for school failure, substance abuse, repeat victimization and, perhaps most tragically, for becoming adult victims themselves. By age 17, at least 27 percent of children nationwide have witnessed domestic violence in their own families, and about 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. Children who are victims of, or witnesses to, violence often suffer severe long-term emotional and physical consequences.
Let this month of October serve as a reminder to us all that domestic violence continues to be a serious problem in our communities and that we must continue to do all we can to eliminate it from our society.
John S. Leonardo is the United States attorney for the district of Arizona.