Domestic violence isn’t an easy topic to address. It occurs beyond any bounds of demographics. It doesn’t just happen in the underbelly of society; it can happen in the largest of homes to both genders, at any age. It happens to people of all ethnicities. It happens to even the deeply religious.

Domestic violence isn’t an easy topic to address. It occurs beyond any bounds of demographics. It doesn’t just happen in the underbelly of society; it can happen in the largest of homes to both genders, at any age. It happens to people of all ethnicities. It happens to even the deeply religious.

And even though domestic violence encompasses a widespread array of victims, it’s still shrouded in stigma, making it a too-often unspoken problem. Those fighting domestic violence have shrinking resources.

There aren’t enough beds in the state for people seeking sanctuary from an unsafe situation. For every one person admitted to a shelter, two must find an alternative. That too often means the streets.

If faced with a domestic abuse situation, people in Northeast Missouri can turn to AVENUES in Hannibal for assistance. The aging facility has space for nine beds in a multi-county area that saw more than 700 separate incidents of domestic violence in 2013, according to the most recent data available from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Marion County alone racked up 442 total domestic violence incidents in 2013. That correlates to a domestic violence rate of 1,544.8 per 100,000 population. That’s the third highest rate by county in Missouri — higher than the city of St. Louis. Only nearby Audrain County and central Missouri’s Maries County had a higher rate in MSHP’s most recent comprehensive crime report. Metropolitan areas have a greater number of shelters available proportionate to the population, but it’s resources in rural areas that often have a more towering task, dealing with high rates of domestic violence on shoestring budgets.

Ralls County officers responded to domestic violence calls about once every ten days in 2013, with ten incidents involving spouses and 13 incidents involving blood relatives. In comparison to other counties with similar populations, Ralls County fell somewhere in the middle of domestic violence rates.

The rate of 350.5 per 100,000 population is below the state average of 662 per 100,000.

The only way to truly end these issues is to end domestic violence. That may never happen, but there are some ways local government can help alleviate pressures shelters face.

A change to Missouri Revised Statutes Section 488.607.1, implemented on Aug. 25, allows municipal and associate court clerks to levy a surcharge of up to $4 on criminal cases in which a defendant is found guilty. That surcharge would go directly to the local domestic violence shelter — in the case of Marion and Ralls Counties, to AVENUES.

The $4 surcharge must first be approved by ordinance by the appropriate governing body. Hannibal has already done so. Marion County has as well.

We encourage the Ralls County Commissioners to follow suit. The county’s clerk, Gina Jameson, told the Courier-Post a vote by the commissioners was needed to make the same change.

The simple vote could double the amount of cash flowing to AVENUES from Ralls County, and only at the expense of convicted criminals.

AVENUES provides vital services to the community. Each governing body needs to ask itself what it can do to support one of the few agencies willing to provide a voice for the voiceless and the chance at a safe alternate option.

Forty-eight died as a result of domestic violence in 2013 in Missouri. We need to do everything we can to make sure that number goes down, starting with those in a position of leadership.