Number of domestic violence victims also climbing

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Photo - Abused woman hiding in dark
Abused woman hiding in dark
Local,Virginia,Crime,Taylor Holland

Police in Northern Virginia are reporting a spike in the number of victims of domestic violence, a report from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services found.

The study shows that the number of reported domestic violence victims in Alexandria doubled from 321 to 665 and in Fairfax City from 47 to 113, or 150 percent, in the five years from 2006 to 2010.

Sgt. Joe Johnson, a spokesman for the Fairfax City Police Department, said the increase could reflect a growing sense of trust between residents and officers.

"I think that, with Latinos and minorities in particular, you're seeing more people come forward because they're realizing that they're not going to get deported or beat up by police," Johnson said. "They're seeing police sympathy, and that makes them more comfortable with reporting incidents."

Domestic violence workers in Virginia also are reporting an increase in victims seeking housing at shelters statewide, similar to numbers reported by shelters in the District and Maryland.

Kristine Hall, advocacy and policy coordinator for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, said she has seen a recent escalation in domestic violence cases.

"Without delving into a community to study individual cases, it's hard to know just how accurate the statistics are," Hall said. "But we have seen an increase, and at times our programs have been stretched beyond capacity.

"It's unacceptable to have to turn people away or have them call a hotline when there's a chance that there's no one available. We're working hard to raise awareness about the gap between demand and funding [for domestic violence] services."

Some Northern Virginia jurisdictions -- most notably Arlington and Fairfax County SEmD reported a drop in the number of domestic violence victims during the five-year span, however. In Arlington, the number of victims dropped roughly 22 percent, while Fairfax County police reported a nearly 9 percent decrease. - Taylor Holland

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