HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - There is an urgent need to address domestic violence as a public health issue. That was the message delivered to Harrison County supervisors Monday from members of the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence.
"We have had on the Coast, since August, four domestic violence homicides, which is unprecedented," said Rene Davis as she appeared before the county board Monday morning.
Davis and others from the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence urged county supervisors to treat domestic violence as a serious public health issue that impacts more than just the victims.
"Two thirds of the people in domestic violence shelters in this country are children. So, it affects our kids. It affects kids in school," Davis explained. "We spent $5.8 billion in this country last year fighting domestic violence, and the outcomes, in mental health and medical care and law enforcement, it is a business problem. It is a public health issue."
"It's a dangerous issue for law enforcement officers. It's one of the most dangerous calls that law enforcement officers can respond on, because you don't know what to expect," said Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara.
Brisolara said the unpredictable nature and high emotions with such cases add to the danger.
"Nine times out of 10, the officer is in the middle, because he's trying to defuse it, you know, and he's getting right in the middle of it to get the situation defused. You know, it's serious. The assaults are taken onto the officers, too," said Brisolara.
"It's easy, a lot of times in these relationships, to look at it as somebody else's personal problem. That's their relationship. That's their private business. But, it is not. It is not just their private business. It's something we have to, as a community, speak out against. We have to look out for each other. We have to speak up and say something and help each other," Davis told the supervisors.
Davis urged county leaders to lend their voices to raising awareness about the issue of domestic violence and working with the community to respond to it.
The women's center offers emergency shelter, counseling and other services. Anyone in an abusive situation who needs help is urged to call the crisis hotline. That number is 228-435-1968.