The figures are alarming: within the last five years, there have been more than 25,000 reported cases of domestic violence in Miami-Dade alone. And there’s a good chance that that number doesn’t reflect the problem in its entirety, since many cases go unreported.
When talking to reporters from the Miami Herald, Barbara Brewer—a social worker with the local police—described domestic violence in Miami-Dade as a “grave phenomenon” because of high volume and cruelty of the cases. The problem isn’t unique to Miami-Dade, though—every year, there are more than 100,000 reported cases of domestic violence throughout the state of Florida.
Many victims of domestic abuse do not report incidents because of desperation, fear, and financial reasons. Some stay in abusive relationships in order to provide their children with a “normal” family structure, while others believe reporting the incident will not be helpful.
And indeed, it’s not always easy for victims of domestic violence to get the help they need. In Miami-Dade in particular, the county lacks the resources to combat the thousands of reported cases of domestic violence effectively. The county’s domestic violence unit has also suffered budget cuts within the last five years, reducing their team of 12 investigators to five. According to officials, out of the many cases of domestic violence, only a handful ever make it to trial.
How the Community Can Help
In addition to calling for increased support for domestic violence victims from the police, advocates are urging the Florida community to do its part to fight domestic violence through increased education and awareness campaigns.
As a Florida resident, you help to combat our state’s growing problem with domestic violence by:
Being aware of the signs. Victims of domestic violence are all around you, and may come in many different genders, races, and level of income. Sometimes domestic violence victims may be identified by bumps, bruises, and other physical symptoms, but others may be less recognizable. Remember that domestic violence comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. Common signs include:
- Bruises, black eyes, sprained wrists, red and purple marks around the neck, and other injuries
- Attempts to hide injuries with clothing or makeup
- Attempts to explain injuries with stories that do not make sense given the severity of the injury
- Isolating self from friends, relatives, and coworkers
- Having little money or access to a car
- Needing to ask permission to spend time with other people
- Low self-esteem, constant apologies
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Reporting incidents. If you see, hear, or experience domestic violence, report incidents to police. Provide important information, such as the location of the incident, names, contact numbers, and whether you’d like your report to be anonymous. If you believe that a friend, neighbor, relative, or coworker may be being abused, reach out to him or her by voicing your concerns. If you do not feel comfortable talking about potential abuse, you may want to consult with a local domestic violence outreach program.
Leave abusive relationships. One of the most important things you can do to combat domestic violence is to speak out against abusers in your own life. If you are in an abusive relationship, you should seek help. If someone has hurt or threatened you, contact the police immediately. If you need to leave home immediately, you should make arrangements at a local domestic violence shelter. Contact an organization such as the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence by calling 1-800-500-1119 or visiting their Local Services page.
Contact a Florida domestic violence lawyer. To ensure your case receives the attention it deserves, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced Florida domestic violence lawyer. An attorney can advise you of your rights and options, and work with you to ensure you and your family are protected. With the help of a knowledgeable domestic violence attorney, you can navigate the complicated issues surrounding domestic violence and make your voice heard.
Speak out against false accusations. While most domestic violence claims are serious cries for help, false claims of domestic violence are not uncommon. Oftentimes, victims will use false claims to gain leverage in custody or divorce cases. These claims not only hurt those who are falsely accused, they discredit true victims of domestic violence. If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. A skilled domestic violence attorney may be able to help you speak out against unjust claims, while protecting your rights, family, and name.