OSSINING, N.Y. – There were 181 domestic violence cases reported in the Village of Ossining in 2010, up from 127 in 2008 - ranking the village 21st in Westchester County for domestic violence cases per capita.
While 2012 statistics are not yet available, Ossining Police Capt. Scott Craven said the rise is likely the result of greater initiatives to crack down on the issue, and more people reporting crimes to police.
The Village of Ossining’s population is 24,010, but the village ranked lower than Peekskill (fourth) and other municipalities with similar populations around Westchester County.
There were 24 domestic violence cases in the Town of Ossining in 2010, down from 31 in 2008, ranking the town 32nd in Westchester County.
“What I hope that reflects is that we’re more accessible to a larger group of the population, and that we make a point of speaking to more people about these issues,” Craven said.
"I also think our department and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office is taking a pro-arrest stance and we’re backing it up,” he said.
Domestic violence isn't confined to one area of Westchester County; it happens in every town.
Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women show domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and smaller-population areas like North Salem. Mount Vernon, per capita, had the highest number of reported cases, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
The latest figures are from 2010, the most recently available information. Officials say the statistics don't take into account the many rape cases that go unreported.
Nancy Levin, Chief Development Officer at My Sisters' Place, which offers counseling and other support to domestic-abuse victims, says many residents living in Westchester don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public health issue,” she said.
Approximately one in five women across the nation have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel. She is director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in the news in recent years, including
Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, who died in January after she was reportedly choked her to death. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
And internationally headlines have recently focused on the case of South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who faces charges that he killed his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
Safsel said many cases go unreported.
Groups such as Hope's Door and My Sisters' Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. Hope's Door provides a 24-hour, confidential emergency hotline at 888-438-8700.
They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, something that's especially important because a growing number of women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin notes that it's an issue across the board. “Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said.
“We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”