Louisiana consistently leads the U.S. in domestic homicides — the state ranked No. 1 per capita in the number of women killed by men with a rate of 2.53 per 100,000 in 2009, according to the Violence Policy Center. The state ranked No. 4 in 2010, and No. 9 in 2011. According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 81 percent of homicides against women are committed by a partner or an ex-partner.
To recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the New Orleans City Council's health, education and social services committee met with members of local domestic violence prevention and aid organizations Oct. 16.
"Louisiana is one of the most dangerous, violent places to be a wife, a mother, a girlfriend," said Kati Bambrick Rodriguez, director of the New Orleans Health Department's Domestic Violence Program. According to Rodriguez, Orleans Parish has issued 3,420 personal protective orders (compared to Baton Rouge, which issued 2,088), though only 24 percent of people seeking protection actually get it, she said.
The city's domestic violence program implemented Praxis International's Blueprint for Safety, which creates a criminal justice system-wide response to handling domestic violence. Its Sexual Assault Response Team, which began in February, also maps out a criminal justice system-wide response to sexual assault. The program offers Harmony House, a supervised, safe place for families to bring children for visitation.
Mary Claire Landry, executive director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center, said the center serves 1,200 to 1,500 people a year. NOPD receives 11,000 domestic violence calls a year, with 4,000 calls resulting in an arrest. The center offers a 24-hour crisis line (504-866-9554), operated by a bilingual staff. Its shelter can only house 20 people, however.
"The resources we have don't begin to address the overwhelming need," Landry said.
Julie Hagan, director of the city's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, said its domestic violence screening pilot program at its Central City site has screened 1,287 women from March 1 to Sept. 23 — though only 2 percent were deemed "at-risk," and no participants followed up with their referrals. The program has a two-question screen: Has the person been abused? How? Hagan said it has revised the program, including adding screenings in Spanish and extending the program to its New Orleans East and West Bank sites. "We've found many women to have trust issues in terms of referring," Hagan said. "People will answer 'no' to questions despite being clearly visibly beaten.
"They're comfortable speaking to us but not to people they're less familiar with."
For more information about the city's domestic violence services, visit www.nola.gov/health. — ALEX WOODWARD