The crime is one of the few that increased in Richmond County last year. From January through October, the county had 2,518 domestic violence cases, up from 2,193 during the same period in 2010. From January to October 2009, there were 1,934, according to the county’s Web site. In the first week of 2012, there were two slayings involving live-in partners.
On Jan. 5, Emanuel Jordan, 21, shot his wife, Tia Jordan, 40, with a hunting rifle before turning the gun on himself outside the FPL Food plant on New Savannah Road. In the second case, Catherine Denise Gibson, 26, is accused of fatally stabbing her long-time boyfriend, Albert Dawayne Hawkins, 40, two days later at the Gibson family home on Darlington Drive. In Aiken County, the sheriff’s office reported 373 cases in 2010 and 328 in 2011. Columbia County’s numbers decreased as well, with 978 cases in 2010 and 949 in 2011. Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris attributes the trend to “education, enforcement and early intervention.” He said when officers are called to a domestic case, they always make referrals and recommendations in the hope that the situation doesn’t escalate.
The state of Georgia is following Richmond County’s trend. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Web site says the number of family violence cases increased from 62,156 in 2009 to 65,785 in 2010.
According to the Violence Policy Center, Georgia has been steadily climbing the list of states in the number of women killed by men in single-victim, single-offender homicides. Georgia’s rank rose from 15th in 2009 to 10th in 2010. In 2011, Georgia jumped to sixth, just ahead of seventh-ranked South Carolina. According to the center’s most recent full report from 2009, 90 women were killed by men in Georgia. Of those women, 93 percent knew their attacker and 47 percent of that number were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives or girlfriends.
Allison P. Smith, the director of public policy for the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said shelters statewide that house women and children who have left a violent situation are full more often now. She attributes this partially to the economy. “The process of being able to pick up and start off on their own is getting harder,” she said. “People are choosing to stay longer because of the financial aspect of moving.” However, budget constraints have forced some places to turn people away. Smith said private donations have fallen at least 50 percent.
Aimee Hall, the executive director of Safe Homes of Augusta, has encountered the same problem. She said Safe Homes is always at capacity and has to send people to another shelter, out of state, or even sometimes rent hotel rooms. One woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she had recently left an abusive husband, said she spent eight days calling shelters all over Richmond County and was turned away because they cater to veterans or the disabled, or she had to have a police report or doctor’s note from the past 72 hours. “I called every day, sometimes three to five times,” she said. “I called every outlet I could find. All I got was, ‘We will put you on a waiting list.” She said she heard about Safe Homes from a friend and when she called, she was offered the last spot. Through the shelter, she feels like she has found a community who understands her. “It’s different to know there are people in your situation and to actually be surrounded by it,” she said. She said she is on the mend and, through Safe Homes, has been able to secure housing for herself and her two children, ages 11 and 5. “There aren’t many facilities that cater to women and children in this area,” she said. “They have a plan for me here.”
Not only are men and women staying in abusive relationships longer, but they are staying in the shelters longer, Hall said. Because a lot of these women have never held a job, it makes it that much harder for them to find work in the sluggish economy. Hall said she hears about more violent situations now.
“A lot of times, these situations start with tension,” she said. “The longer you stay, the more likely it is to end in a violent explosion.” She said Safe Homes is looking for a new space to build another shelter in Augusta or Columbia County. “We need to expand our bed space,” she said. “It’s sad but true.”