Spike in Douglas County domestic violence reports might be due to awareness

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- A multi-agency report focused on domestic violence shows that many of the case numbers are on the increase but that might be due to better awareness.

Survivors of domestic violence are hoping this report draws more attention to the problem.

Researchers say this study is the first accurate picture we’ve had of domestic violence in Douglas County in a long time.

Heather said, “I honestly believe, feel that, you know, because of my mother, she also had domestic violence situations, since I was little and I feel like it’s also learned behavior.”

Heather is a survivor. She wasn’t surprised to see some of the numbers in the report like the number of protection orders filed in 2016 and 2017. But she said the protection order didn’t help her mother.

“A piece of paper doesn’t help save us but I also feel like we’re scared to reach out, first and foremost. She’d always have the cops called in, you know, protection orders and all that stuff, she would get those and they wouldn’t do no good.”

There have been high profile cases of protection orders being denied. In February, after a protection order filed by Janet Bohm was denied, police said her estranged husband set the house on fire knowing his family was inside. Janet is still in the hospital in serious condition.

Some of the numbers in the report are telling, like the number of domestic violence arrests in Douglas County increasing from 2015 to 2017.

The Women’s Fund’s Christon MacTaggart, said, “The county attorney’s office has also seen a 51 percent increase in cases. So those cases are still working their way through the system because the largest part of those cases were in 2017 and 2018.”

MacTaggart is the Domestic/Sexual Violence Manager with the Women’s Fund of Omaha. She believes we are seeing increased numbers because of an increase focus by law enforcement and better training, “and so anecdotally we believe those numbers are really the result of better investigations and a better response by law enforcement.”

MacTaggart said this report does not tell the total story of domestic violence in Douglas County.

“This is only part of the story. So these are the cases we’re seeing in the system. These are the cases where individuals are reaching out to victim services for assistance but we also know domestic violence is incredibly underreported.”

Heather said, “That’s what we all think. Hush - don’t say nothing at all.”

But she knows you should say something before it’s too late.

If you are a victim of domestic violence or know anyone who is, there is help. Contact the Women’s Center for Advancement. Their 24 hour hotline number is 402 345-7272.