COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After the arrest of a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy on Saturday for domestic violence charges, advocates are raising awareness about what they call “an everyday problem” in central Ohio.
Experts call the numbers “staggering,” pointing to data that shows one-in-three women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their life. Earlier in the year, for the first time, the state allocated $20 million in the budget to support domestic violence. Still, advocates said resources fall short, particularly compared to surrounding states.
“While we appreciate that funding, I have to say it’s not enough. When you compare the way Ohio funds its domestic violence programs to Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, we come up pretty short,” said Mary O’Doherty, Ohio Domestic Violence Network executive director.
So far this year, Columbus police have responded to 52 domestic violence-related assaults, 15 of which involved a gun. They’ve also reported 22 domestic violence related homicides. Meanwhile, data from the ODVN shows 112 domestic violence related fatalities occurred between June 1, 2022, and June 20, 2023. Nearly two dozen of those included young people.
It’s a concern both at the state and local level. Just last month, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther spoke about the “alarming trend” of domestic violence. In March, the city allocated $4 million to create The Office of Violence Prevention.
Director Rena Shak — who has been leading that office since the spring — previously served as an assistant policy director in the mayor’s office, as well as a public defender.
In September, Shak said her office is just part of the solution and cautioned it would take time to see results. Shak said some of the office’s long-term work includes research and legislation, while short-term work includes hundreds of community events and meetings her team has attended.
“What we are really hoping to do in taking community feedback is trying to give a voice to the community in shaping the way we are going forward,” Shak said. “We know we house some of the best programs and employ some of the best practices, but we can absolutely always get better and that’s our goal.”
Meanwhile, statewide legislators have taken steps to protect domestic violence victims, while creating harsher penalties for perpetrators. In December, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 288 into law, making strangulation a felony in the state.
Working their way through the statehouse are a number of other bills, including House Bill 111, which would increase the sentence rage for third-degree felony domestic violence perpetrators. There is also House Bill 161, which would close the spousal rape loophole. A third bill in the statehouse would prohibit air-tag tracking.
O’Doherty said last year they helped more than 80,000 people, and housed more than 10,000. She says domestic violence is a greater problem than people know about.
“When I tell you that we helped 80,000, we know that that is not everyone,” O’Doherty said. “We know there are plenty of people who don’t go seek help at our programs. We also know that we turn many, many survivors and their children away.”
O’Doherty said that last year they had to turn away one-in-three people simply because they didn’t have room.
View more information on the Ohio Domestic Violence Network and the resources they provide here or by calling 614-781-9651. If you or a loved one are in need of immediate assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.