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Published: Monday, 4/26/2010

Ohio report: Domestic violence prevalent

BLADE STAFF

Teenage girls are more likely to suffer from dating violence than to become pregnant or be injured in a traffic accident.

Adult women are more likely to be the victims of physical abuse from an intimate partner than to be diagnosed with cancer in the same year or injured in a motor vehicle crash.

Seniors are only slightly more likely to face injuries from a fall than they are to experience abuse or neglect.

"Many people don't appreciate how common family violence is," said Kenneth Steinman, the lead researcher of a new county-by-county report compiled by Ohio State University that listed such comparisons.

"People don't appreciate how consequential it is and how valuable prevention efforts are."

The findings of the report were presented recently at a forum attended by about 30 representatives from local social services agencies.

The report profiles each of Ohio's 88 counties.

However, its data are not easily comparable.

A lower number of reports could indicate deficiencies in how family abuse is monitored, rather than less abuse, Mr. Steinman said.

"Counties vary a lot in terms of what they report and what they write down," he said.

Nevertheless, researchers selected two indicators that provide an opportunity for some comparison. These are the number of requests for civil protection orders - often used by domestic abuse victims to try to restrain their aggressors - and reports of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of seniors at long-term care facilities.

Both Lucas and Wood counties show more people requesting civil protection orders than counties with similar demographics, and Ohio as a whole.

The number of requests for those orders - 32.9 per 10,000 adults in Lucas County and 31.7 per 10,000 in Wood - is also on the rise in both counties.

That simply could mean more people know about civil protection orders in these counties than in others, the report says.

Ottawa and Fulton counties have about the same rate of petitions for civil protection orders as similar counties in the state.

When it comes to abuse of elders in long-term care facilities, Lucas County appears to have a higher number of reports than other metro counties except Cuyahoga County.

Wood, Ottawa, and Fulton counties are on par with other similar Ohio counties.

Nick Wiselogal, a spokesman for the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, said he hoped the report would be helpful to organizations that work on family violence issues.

The purpose "is really to take this new county-level data and share it with people working in the local community and show them ways that they can use it either for acquiring funding or doing strategic planning," Mr. Wiselogal said.

The study, compiled by Ohio State University in partnership with the Health Policy Institute of Ohio and the Health Path Foundation of Ohio, estimates up to 56,000 children in Ohio are abused or neglected every year and as many as 115,000 adults are physically abused by a current or former intimate partner.

Another 96,900 to 128,700 seniors experience abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation every year, the data show.

Many cases of family violence do not come to the attention of authorities, the study says.

That trend is particularly noticeable among seniors, for whom only about 11,000 reports of abuse, neglect, or exploitation are filed yearly, the report shows.

Mr. Steinman said the study was complicated by the fact there is no single agency devoted to gathering data on family violence. To compile the report, researchers combined and compared information from a variety of national, state, and county sources, including surveys, police reports, children's services, domestic violence shelters and data on filings for civil protection orders.

- Claudia Boyd-Barrett



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