Among those closely following this week’s events in South Africa, where Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend, was Judy Edmonson. The executive director of AVENUES says it is just the latest example of domestic violence to make headlines.
“Domestic violence is not a women’s issue, it’s a society issue and it affects women, men and children at all levels,” she said. “As a whole, society agrees that domestic violence is wrong, but that’s not the message that is being sent in the accountability for domestic violence. If somebody commits domestic violence and get by with it then they feel like they can continue. We have to hold batterers accountable. That’s the No. 1 thing.”
On Friday, a prosecutor indicated that Pistorius would be charged with premeditated murder.
Another story that Edmonson has been following this week is the U.S. Senate’s vote to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which for two decades has shielded millions of women from abuse and helped reduce national rates of domestic violence.
“It’s been a long time due,” she said. “It was supposed to have passed last year.”
The U.S. House is now working on its own version of VAWA. Edmonson wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what sort of version of the Act might ultimate be approved.
“I can’t see VAWA dying. I have to believe some version will pass. It’s worrisome to say the least what version will pass,” she said.
Part of Edmonson’s anxiety stems from the fact AVENUES receives funding through the Act.
“If it passes as it is right now we would not see any cuts, if it passes the House as it did the Senate. At this point there’s not any concerns of funding cuts as long as it passes. If it doesn’t pass then we’re talking a different story,” she said.
AVENUES serves seven counties in Northeast Missouri – Marion, Pike, Ralls, Shelby, Monroe, Clark and Lewis. According to Edmonson, the number of people receiving its assistance is increasing.
“Last year we served over 400 new victims of domestic and sexual violence. Our numbers continue to grow,” she said. “Victims need help and we’re here to do that.”
While a number of issues fuel the growing level of domestic violence being seen, they are not at the heart of the problem.
“The root cause of domestic violence are power and control. Someone feels they have the right to take power and control over somebody else,” said Edmonson.
Page 2 of 2 - (The Associated Press contributed to this story.)