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Joplin Sees a 40 Percent Increase in Domestic Violence since May 22nd Tornado

It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Joplin has reported a 40 percent increase of domestic violence cases since the deadly tornado that hit the city on May 22nd. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe spoke with a Joplinwomen’s shelter, and has this report.

Louise Secker works for the Lafayette House, a women’s shelter in Joplin. The Lafayette House serves 1700 women and children each year, half of whom are victims of domestic violence. By the end of August, the shelter had seen a 20 percent increase in the number of residents.

“We provided a total of 2,500 what we call residential days or ‘bed nights’, and that’s about 800 more than we had served in that same period the year before. So not only were 20 percent more people here, but they were staying for a longer period of time,” Secker said.

Secker said those numbers were a direct result of the increase in domestic violence cases in the Joplin area. She said the destruction served as a tipping point that caused those who were emotionally and verbally abusive to take it one step further, leading to physical abuse.

“If there was abuse going on in the home, and they perhaps lost their home, or their job was affected, or their school was gone, or their church was gone, all the stressers could really trigger more abuse in the home and would cause the women to seek shelter where maybe she didn’t think she had to before,” Secker said.

Secker says that lower income women in their 20s and 30s were primarily affected by the increase in domestic violence. She expects the numbers to continue through the end of next year.

“The direction that we’ve been given from FEMA and from other communities is that for about 12 to 18 months after a disaster like the tornado we experienced, we’ll see surges in the number of people requesting services. It will continue to go up and down, and overall will be an increase,” Secker said.

Secker said the funding that poured in from the state and local governments, families, churches, and the United Way are helping support the large numbers that the Lafayette House now serves. As long as the funding continues, Secker says these battered women and their children will receive the support they need to begin a new, healthy life, and she hopes the domestic violence numbers will go down. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.