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Meredith Holt, Published October 08 2012

InDepth: Effects of domestic violence felt in the community

FARGO – Domestic violence comes at a cost to social services, police resources, health care, employment and education.

Addressing the problem takes time, money and staffing. It shows up in emergency rooms and clinic offices. It affects attendance and productivity at work and school.

“It’s a broader picture,” says Karen Carlson, YWCA Cass Clay housing director.

Erin Prochnow, the organization’s executive director, says it costs $1,517 to house a woman or child for the average 41-day stay.

“(Providing emergency shelter to abuse victims) does take a great deal of time and dollars and energy,” she says.

According to PurplePurse.com, 33 percent of police time is spent responding to domestic disturbance calls.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes says they’re higher-priority calls that require an immediate and sometimes emergency response.

“It’s not a call for service we can set aside,” he says.

Police Detective Chris Nichtern says a typical domestic call could take 20 minutes to a half-hour, depending on the cooperation of those involved.

“I’d say they’re one of our top priorities when it comes to our calls, but they do take up a lot of our time,” he says.

According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, $5.8 billion is spent each year on health-related costs of domestic violence, nearly $4.1 billion of which for victims requiring direct medical and mental health care services.

“When you’re in a state of chaos and you’re in survival mode, what are you going to do if you’re sick? Am I going to go to the doctor if I don’t have health insurance? Am I going to go in and have this tooth looked at when it just kind of hurts, or am I going to wait until I’m in throbbing pain?” Prochnow says.

The YWCA, in partnership with Sanford Health, has a shelter faith community nurse on site 25 hours a week to provide health education and personal health counseling, to make referrals, and to act as a spiritual liaison.

Oftentimes, the abuse carries over into the workplace.

PurplePurse.com says 96 percent of domestic violence victims who are employed experience problems at work due to abuse.

Examples include being followed at work, being harassed at work or being attacked at work, says Daria Odegaard, education coordinator for the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead.

Even if the various forms of abuse aren’t occurring at work, they can affect a victim’s ability to get and keep a job, often through restricted access to transportation and child care.

“It’s a significant barrier to securing employment and keeping employment, there’s no question about it,” Prochnow says.

Carlson says if domestic violence victims are cut off from transportation or miss work, their co-workers feel the effects, such as having to give rides or pick up slack.

“Other staff that are working with that individual are going to have to come and pick up that individual and get her to work. Others might not even know what’s going on,” she says.

According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for nearly $1.8 billion each year.

Children from abusive households can miss school, get behind, and require additional tutoring to get caught up, Carlson says.

The RACC says they can feel powerless, guilty, helpless, angry, confused, afraid, isolated, insecure, dishonest, embarrassed or overwhelmed.

“If you have a kid that’s growing up in a really crappy home and bad things are happening all the time, what chance does that kid really have?” Nichtern says. “It’s certainly a much diminished chance at success in life than somebody that’s not surrounded by fear or threats of violence.”

Impact of domestic violence: By the numbers

5-7: average domestic disturbance calls per day in Fargo

20-30 minutes: average response time to a domestic disturbance call in Fargo

$37: cost to house a woman or child for a day at the YWCA Cass Clay

41 days: average length of stay for a woman or child at the YWCA Cass Clay

96 percent: percentage of employed domestic violence victims who experience problems at work due to abuse

$1.8 billion: cost of lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence

$5.8 billion: amount spent each year on health-related costs of domestic violence

8 million: days of paid work domestic violence victims lose each year

Sources: YWCA Cass Clay, Fargo Police Department, American Institute on Domestic Violence, PurplePurse.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590