RYE BROOK, N.Y. – Domestic violence reports in Rye Brook increased 45 percent in the past two years, from 44 in 2008 to 64 in 2010, according to Diane Murphy and the Office for Women.
Across Westchester County, there was a 20 percent increase, from 10,783 in 2008 to 12,971 in 2010.
Rye Brook police Lt. Eugene Matthews said the numbers may have increased because couples have become more diverse and more people are becoming aware of incidents, and are deciding to take appropriate action.
“More people are able to report them,” he said.
Domestic violence isn't confined to one area of Westchester County; it happens in every town.
Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women (see attachment) show domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and sleepy towns like North Salem. Mount Vernon, per capita, had the highest number of reported cases, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
The latest figures are from 2010, the most recently-available information. Officials say the statistics don't take into account the many rape cases that go unreported.
Nancy Levin, Chief Development Officer at My Sister's Place, says many residents living in Westchester don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public health issue,” she said.
Approximately one in five women across the nation have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel. Safsel is director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in the news in recent years.
Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after she was choked her to death. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Safsel said many cases go unreported.
Places such as Hope's Door and My Sister's Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. Hope's Door provides a 24-hour, confidential emergency hotline at 888-438-8700. They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, something that's especially important because a growing number of women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin notes it's an issue across the board.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”