State ranks in top 10 of domestic offenders nationally

By Ed Brock

Georgia placed in the top 10 in the nation for a recent study, but that's not good news.

The state ranks eighth for numbers of women killed by men according to the Violence Policy Center's latest "When Men Murder Women" report. The report, which is based on information from the FBI's unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report with statistics from 2003, has been released in October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

News of the report's findings came as a dismal reminder to advocates for victims of domestic violence in Clayton and Henry counties that the problem is growing.

"I find it appalling," said Mary Thomaston, treasurer for the Securus House battered women's shelter in Clayton County. "We rank No. 50 in SAT scores but No. 8 in domestic violence deaths."

Marjorie Lacy, executive director of Haven House in Henry County, said she wasn't surprised by the state's ranking. Last year they helped 3,421 new victims in the counties they cover, including Henry, Lamar, Butts, Spalding, Pike and Jasper.

"Since I've been director here for three years we've had three people killed," Lacy said. "I'm not sure why. But we're really trying to get the word out that women can be safe."

That is the purpose of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and both shelters plan events this month to rally the public to the cause of preventing violence in the family.

Securus House will hold a Candlelight Vigil on Oct. 6 from 6 p.m. in front of the old Clayton County Courthouse on McDonough Street in Jonesboro. The vigil is "not to eulogize but to show respect for those who did not survive domestic violence," Thomaston said.

Then on Oct. 10 the shelter will begin its "Clothesline Project," a display at the Clayton County Headquarters Library on Battlecreek Road of T-shirts bearing the stories of domestic violence survivors.

"Those are people who broke the cycle," Thomaston said.

On the same date Securus House will also begin its "Hope Line" cellphone collection drive sponsored by Verizon. Residents can donate their old cellphones to be distributed to people that the shelter is using.

On Oct. 11 Haven House will have a special program at the Henry County Chamber of Commerce breakfast that begins at 7:30 a.m. in the Chamber-Hudgins Room behind the chamber building at 1709 Ga. Highway 20 in McDonough. The cost of admission is $8, Lacy said. Call the chamber at (770) 957-5786 for reservations.

Also according to the Violence Policy Center study, Alaska ranks first in the nation in the rate of women killed by men, followed by Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee,

South Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. Nationally, the rate

was 1.31 per 100,000 people.

And the study showed that firearms were the most common weapon used by males to murder females, making up 835 of 1,678 homicides or 50 percent. Of these, 77 percent (647 of 835) were committed with handguns as opposed to rifles or shotguns.

"These numbers should serve as a wake-up call to the states with the highest rates of female homicide," said VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. "In identifying solutions to domestic violence, the role firearms play must be addressed."