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Domestic violence a national epidemic

On Dec. 18, a New Jersey man killed his girlfriend and her teenage daughter with a rope and a hammer. As is often the case, the local media did not report this crime as domestic violence but as a double homicide, questioning the actions of the victims. The story underscores a public health crisis that plays itself out millions of times a year in California and across the United States.

Approximately 1,300 Americans were killed in domestic violence incidents in 2014, and an estimated 2 million are injured each year. These crimes are committed by spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends once every nine seconds. The victims come from every sociological demographic. They are rich, poor, women, men, educated and uneducated, religious and non-religious, all races, all ages and all sexual orientations.

According to advocates for the victims of domestic violence, U.S. laws are antiquated and in dire need of updating to have any chance of addressing the issue. Victims are still regularly blamed for the violence that is perpetrated against them, and abusers are allowed to walk around freely while their victims take refuge in overcrowded shelters. While restraining orders are a start, advocates say that lawmakers need to go further and begin putting violent criminals behind bars. They also recommend educational programs that teach teenagers how to have healthy, respectful relationships, so fewer people use violence to solve their problems. These steps won't completely end domestic violence, but they will make a difference to thousands of victims and signal that American society will no longer tolerate these crimes.

Domestic violence victims who want to file a restraining order against their abuser may find it helpful to work with an attorney. Legal counsel could explain the options that are available and help file the necessary paperwork in a timely manner.

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