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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows decrease in reported cases of domestic violence

Jennifer Sprouse • Oct 6, 2013 at 9:10 PM

While reported cases of domestic violence in Washington County and Johnson City have seen an overall decrease along with state numbers, domestic violence acts are still prevalent.

A TBI news release said Tennessee has seen a decrease of 3.4 percent in domestic violence cases from 2010-12, which included reported categories of murder/non-negligent homicide, kidnapping/abduction, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling, aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation, stalking, incest and statutory rape.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said the county has seen decreases in domestic violence cases by 35.42 percent, and said they had 847 reports of domestic violence in 2010, 740 in 2011 and 547 in 2012.

Graybeal said he attributes the decrease in the domestic calls to better training in law enforcement.

“We’ve done a lot of training on domestic violence and the laws have changed just a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s better training, quicker response time of the officers and I think it’s just an overall better system that we have now than what we had years ago. Years and years ago we were trained to take someone to jail. Now that’s kind of changed. We don’t do that anymore without something taking place in the house.”

Some of the calls Washington County deputies respond to have been known to be violent, as well as calls to the same addresses.

“(Domestic violence is) something that I think is declining, and I think a lot of it, too, is that people are understanding that when something does happen that we’re going to respond,” Graybeal said. “I’ve been here starting 34 years, and most of the things I see is that chain of violence that’s in that home is passed on from generation to generation. If a child sees dad hit mom ... it becomes part of their life.”

Johnson City Police Lt. Steve Sherfey said while the city’s domestic violence reports overall have decreased, he said some of the statistics can be deceiving.

“Overallit went down, but some categories were actually higher,” Sherfey said. “We’re kind of like the state. It’s gone down in certain categories, but other categories it’s kind of gone up.”

Sherfey said on domestic calls, there is usually a high rate of clearance as the assailants are known when the calls are made.

In 2011, he said the city reported 702 domestic calls, clearing 668, and in 2012 they reported 662, clearing 630 of the calls.

He said around 80 percent to 90 percent of domestic calls are typically simple assaults and said the other three high volume of calls they receive are those for aggravated assaults, intimidation and stalking.

“That 662 we had in 2012, 498 of them ... were simple assaults, so that’s going to be your majority,” Sherfey said.

He said another factor could possibly be people not reporting domestic violence, which would also show a decrease in the overall report.

Dr. Peggy Cantrell, a professor in the department of psychology at East Tennessee State University and a clinical psychologist, said she’s been researching regional intimate partner violence since the the 1980s and said intimate partner violence is still common.

“A lot of what we know about violence and about demographics now sort of goes against the profile the Justice Department reports,” Cantrell said. “Single women with children are actually at the highest risk for intimate partner violence and they’re a big growing group. (Violence is) there in teen dating. It’s there in college dating. It’s not just in marital relationships.”

She said around 25 percent to 30 percent of women on surveys will report violence in their relationships, but said those numbers decrease when it comes to women showing up to a hospital or human services agency or reporting it to police.

Modeling domestic behavior from family life, overexposure to violent crime and violence through entertainment or media and gender sexualization are three of the common causes of a person having domestically violent tendencies, Cantrell said.

“In the home is where we model our ways of relating, especially to intimate partners,” she said. “How (parents, grandparents, guardians) behave is how we model the adult behavior.”

Cantrell said while it’s great that serious battering, as reported by police, is reportedly decreasing, she says the mental and psychological impacts of such abuse are still a problem.

“I think what’s typically reported in the crime statistics are going to be more extreme where there’s injuries involved or criminal battering,” she said. “Clinically, it’s still a problem because the non-battering violence still has serious health and mental health effects.”

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