Responding to DV fatalities in Whatcom CountyMarch 21, 2011
Did you know that half of the fatalities in Whatcom County in 2010 were domestic violence related? These homicides took place in the communities of Bellingham, Everson, Maple Falls, and Sumas.
Whatcom County has experienced an unusual spike in domestic violence related fatalities over the past two years, with an especially difficult year in 2010. From 1997 through 2008, there were generally either one or zero intimate partner homicides in Whatcom County, with the only exception being in 2002, when there were two. Then, in 2009 there were two intimate partner homicides, and four more in 2010.
In the State of Washington, there were 37 victims of intimate partner homicides in 2010. The youngest victim was age 19, and was killed by her boyfriend; the oldest victim was 89, and was killed by her husband. There were 2 pregnant women killed, and 10 children witnessed a domestic violence murder. These homicides took place in 30 cities and towns across 16 counties.
After King and then Pierce, Whatcom had the highest number of intimate partner homicides in the State of Washington in 2010. King County had 9 homicides, Pierce County had 5.
Whatcom County is known for being a community that is dedicated to responding to and ending domestic violence. Since the inception of the Bellingham-Whatcom County Commission Against Domestic Violence (BWCCADV) in 1998, the County and its communities have received a national reputation for collaborative efforts between the civil and criminal justice systems, advocates, social service agencies, health care providers, businesses, and other community members.
When a victim of domestic violence is murdered by her/his intimate partner, it is an indication that all of our best efforts have failed, and there is no way for us to go back and make things right for that victim. These tragedies can only be addressed by going forward – which does involve an element of looking back to see where we can be even better.
Because our community is so committed to reducing all domestic violence, especially high-lethality domestic violence, the BWCCADV has decided to conduct a formal fatality review of several of the domestic violence homicides from 2010. We will look at cases that have already been fully prosecuted, and we will follow a legislatively-sanctioned process that prevents liability for any participants in the process. This ensures the ability of all of our community partners to fully take part in the process. The goal will be to take an in-depth look at the circumstances victims faced, who they asked for help, and the responses they were provided, with the constant focus on protecting victims in the future.
By conducting a fatality review, we will be using our past failures as a way to provide recommendations and opportunities for future success. It is also a way for us to honor the victims who we were unable to protect – by learning more about their stories and experiences, we can work to prevent lethal incidents of domestic violence in the future.This entry was posted in education, resources, victims. Bookmark the permalink.
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