OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha agencies are expanding domestic violence education and prevention efforts, as recent national events have encouraged more survivors to report abuse.
The Omaha Police Department handled nearly 3,200 cases of domestic violence assaults in 2017, a nearly 7 percent increase from the previous year, the Omaha World-Herald reported . Reports of sexual assaults also rose almost 12 percent from 2016 to 2017.
The department moved its domestic violence unit to Project Harmony in June. The organization provides services to victims of child abuse and their families. The move aims to give victims multiple services in one place and to make them feel safe and supported, said Sgt. Scott Warner.
The Women’s Center for Advancement, which provides services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, worked with clients more than 28,000 times last year, a more than 50 percent increase from 2016. Center officials believe the increase doesn’t indicate a rise in assaults, but instead reflects that survivors are more comfortable reporting assaults and seeking help.
Tonya Williams experienced domestic abuse 25 years ago. She’s one of the women who have come forward to share her story through Survivors Rising. The group focuses on advocacy, education and support for survivors of domestic violence and abuse.
The veil of shame has begun to lift for those affected by domestic violence, said Leontyne Evans, a member of Survivors Rising.
While the #MeToo movement has largely focused on sexual assault and harassment, domestic violence is typically rooted in similar unhealthy power and control dynamics, said Elizabeth Power, a spokeswoman for the center.
“If these national conversations and movements had happened even four or five years ago, I’m not sure this agency would have been ready to complement them for the local community,” Power said. “But we are ready now.”
The center has increased its education and prevention programming, which includes domestic violence training classes for clergy, law enforcement and medical professionals, Power said. The center also gives presentations to area schools, businesses and agencies.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com