Pornography at root of more and more domestic violence incidents says Utah coalition

The complexities surrounding domestic violence are being complicated by a new factor: The prevalence and easy access to pornography.

More women requesting help are reporting that their abuser views pornography, according to officials who work with abused women.

“Five years ago pornography wasn’t something we talked about,” said Kay Card, director of Safe Harbor, a women’s shelter in Davis County. The pornography is a “cancer,” she said.

“Women can’t compete with the Internet,” Card said.

They report their abuse starts with put-downs, progresses to physical abuse, sexual insults, sexual abuse and rape.

“They appear to be living normal lives, but you don’t know what people are doing on the Internet in the middle of the night,” Card said.

Utah’s Domestic Violence Coalition wants to get the message out, that it is not OK to physically, psychologically, emotionally or financially abuse another person, whether it is wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend or a child.

Judy Kasten-Bell, executive director of the Domestic Violence Coalition council, said, since there have been 11 deaths in Utah so far this year related to domestic violence.

The first this year was the murder of Brittany Nichols, 23, in North Ogden on Jan. 4. Her killer, Johnny Maurice Bell, was sentenced recently to 16 years to life in the Utah State Prison.

“There is no room in our community for domestic violence,” Kasten-Bell said.

The struggling economy is also complicating efforts to help abuse victims. Jobs are the key to helping women get away from their abuser and back on their feet.

Top of Utah women escaping domestic violence are spending more time in shelters than a year ago due to the poor economy.

When the economy plummets, abuse cases of all types, tend to increase, said Jason Wild, interim director for the Family Connection Center in Layton.

But women are more reluctant to report abuse because they are financially dependent on their partner and are afraid they will not be able to make it on their own, he said.

“We’re not seeing a massive increase in numbers (of women reporting abuse),” said Raquel Lee, assistant director of Your Community Connection in Ogden.

“What is happening, it is taking longer to get on their feet,” Lee said about the women who do leave a violent relationship.

Many of the women who come to the shelters for help are unemployed, which makes it almost impossible for them to find a place to live, said Card.

Annette MacFarlane, director of Your Community in Unity, in Brigham City, agrees.

“The reason many women go back to their abuser is because they do not have a job or a place to live,” said MacFarlane.

One in four women have experienced or are in a violent domestic relationship, she said.

From July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, her agency took 3,845 phone calls from victims, as well as friends and family members seeking help on behalf of another.

So a recent $250,733 award from the Department of Justice was welcome news, MacFarlane said. The funds will be used for several programs, including transitional housing and to help women who are getting out of abusive relationships.

Currently, the agency provides funding for one year of rent, but with the added funds, the agency will be able to provide rent assistance for 18 months.

Card said her agency is feeling the economic pinch in another way: For the first time there is a drop in private donations, which are used to help pay for (doctor) co-pays, bus fares, dental work for children, and prescriptions.

In addition, Card’s shelter is seeing a decrease in donations of items like paper towels, toilet paper and reams of copy paper.

Women seeking help do not fit society’s stereotypes, MacFarlane said.

“She doesn’t live in a trailer court with a husband wearing a ‘wife beater’ undershirt,” MacFarlane said. “The reality is they represent the demographics of our community.”


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