Local advocates say severity and frequency in domestic violence cases on the rise

Today marks the beginning of domestic violence awareness month, coming at a time when some local officials say the level of violence and severity in DV cases has had a steep increase. Just this week, we’ve seen a deadly domestic violence-related triple shooting, which is just the latest in a string of horrific homicides involving intimate partners and family.

The data for Bellevue Police domestic violence cases tells a strange-and unsettling story. Overall, DV cases aren’t up, but the most serious category of DV offenses is.

“Those crimes include strangulation, broken bones, and obviously the last one is death, so we've seen in an increase of 30% in domestic violence involving injuries such as that,” says Captain Alycia McKinney of the Bellevue Police Department.

So far this year in King County, prosecutors say there have been 13 domestic violence homicide victims. The total number for 2019 was seven cases.  DV homicide cases. Since the pandemic hit, Bellevue PD has had two DV related homicides of their own.

“An adult male stabbed his parents to death who were visiting from out of town. The second incident occurred at the elements, the daughter was throwing a house warming party. Her father showed up, and started an altercation with her and her friends, he stabbed one of her friends and her other friend actually shot the father in self-defense,” says Captain McKinney.

Both cases left two dead. And both demonstrate that domestic violence doesn’t just happen between spouses-it can involve family members and co-habitants. just this week in Edmonds, a 20-year-old woman was killed, after her roommates, estranged husband shot her, her boyfriend, and her roommate, the shooter’s estranged wife who’d just left him two days prior. And in Tacoma, a man killed his wife and another woman who was their roommate, before jumping off a bridge-taking his own life in July.

“The frequency and severity of abuse is increasing as people are stuck at home with abusive partners,” says Rachel Krinsky, executive director of LifeWire, an organization that serves DV survivors in East and North King County.

She says since COVID their workload is heavier in more ways than one.

“The intensity of what we're seeing, we're just seeing more severe kinds of  violence, more strangulation, more incidents with firearms, and of course children are stuck at home now too so there's a lot more incidents children are witnessing.”

Krinsky says some of the abuse involved repeat offenders, some don’t. Some involve stalking from ex-partners, some between current partners-it’s all a mix. But there is a common thread in it all, extreme stress, and another unwelcomed product of the pandemic: isolation.

“People become very isolated, and that’s when things become scariest,” says Krinsky.

With all these factors contributing already contributing to domestic violence, Captain McKinney says there are more concerns on the horizon.

“We are concerned for the upcoming months…we're the Pacific Northwest, it rains, it's dreary, and a lot of people have some mental health issues with the weather changing.  Now that they're stuck inside again they're juggling jobs and homeschooling their children and financial stress, we are concerned that the numbers will continue to rise.”  

It’s a grim thought, which is why Krinsky says it’s more important now than ever that we all do this simple task-one that could save a life: “If you're concerned about somebody, reach out to them not even to necessarily ask about their relationship but just to be there for them.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence you can call, text or chat with the 24-hour national DV hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

Locally there are many resources, but organizations could always use our help. The organization LifeWire tells us daily they get calls from victims who have to choose between staying with an abuser, or living on the street. LifeWire is holding it’s October World of Hope Gala virtually this year, they’re hoping for a big turnout so they can continue to help as many survivors as possible.