From Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [verbatim statement]
Jackson.MS--As we enter the month of October, recognized by both federal and state authorities as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Attorney General Jim Hood encourages us all to take some time and remember our fellow Mississippians who are in danger every day in their own homes.
“Unfortunately, rather than being a safe haven, the home remains one of the most dangerous places for many of our citizens,” says Attorney General Jim Hood.
The domestic violence offense report database, maintained by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Division, indicates that domestic violence remains one of the most common calls to which our law enforcement officers respond. Since January 1, 2012, Mississippi law enforcement officers have investigated and entered into the database over 7500 reports of domestic violence. Our courts are also seeing firsthand the prevalence of this problem; since that same date, Mississippi courts have issued over 1700 domestic abuse protection orders to protect victims of domestic abuse and their children from dangerous abusers. Even more tragic, since January 1, 2012, the Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Division has been able to identify 17 separate incidents of family violence which resulted in the homicide deaths of 19 people and the suicides of four others.
“It is simply disgraceful that offenses of this nature continue to occur in our communities," said Attorney General Hood. " It is the duty of all Mississippians to speak out and do all that they can to help combat this form of domestic terrorism. ”
“The overwhelming grief of the families and friends of those who were physically harmed or lost their lives is hard to imagine, particularly when you consider that these cases don’t happen in a vacuum, that in many instances these offenders had been arrested and charged with violence against their loved ones in the past," says Heather Wagner, Director of the Attorney General's Domestic Violence Division. "It is frustrating that in many instances the offenders are permitted to continue their patterns of abuse and terror against their victims. It is our job to help provide necessary tools to the justice system that will help in meaningful ways, before the situations rise to the level of a homicide.”
The Mississippi Attorney General’s office continues to work to support the justice system to help bring an end to domestic violence in Mississippi. During the last fiscal year, staff of the Domestic Violence Division developed new reference materials for use by law enforcement officers, and trained over 1500 law enforcement personnel on the laws and methods to assist officers to ascertain the potential for lethality in domestic violence cases. Law enforcement officers who receive training are better able to make appropriate arrests and charging decisions, thus resulting in more effective prosecution, providing a very real deterrent for offenders. Dispatchers and court personnel were also trained by Division staff. In addition, the Division maintains the statewide offense report database and protection order registry, which once fully implemented by law enforcement and the courts, will give an accurate picture of the incidence of domestic violence on a statewide level for the first time.
“Whether you are a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, judge, or simply a neighbor, friend or co-worker, each of us has a role in helping hold offenders accountable for their criminal actions and providing services and resources for victims," said Attorney General Hood. "Even if all you can do is listen to a victim’s story and encourage him or her to reach out for help or provide information on resources to them, you have taken an important step. We cannot continue to be complacent about this issue if we ever hope to overcome it. If not every day, at least for the month of October, let’s try to keep our victims in our thoughts and prayers and do whatever is in our power to help them survive.”