Domestic Violence Plagues Jamestown

Although domestic violence is hardly unprecedented in Chautauqua County, a slew of recent – and seemingly bizarre – incidents has placed a fresh spotlight on this serious and all-too-recurring problem.

In December alone, The Post-Journal reported on a man who allegedly bit a woman’s face after an argument; a woman who allegedly stabbed a man after he turned off her crock-pot and a man who allegedly knocked down a bedroom door and choked a woman while two children were in the room.

According to Elizabeth Bracey, manager of Project Crossroads – a domestic violence education program that partners with the Jamestown Police Department – incidents like these can draw a lot of attention, but tend to dilute the underlying factors behind the violence.

“Alcohol and drugs play a big part … financial reasons too … and sometimes victims don’t want to leave their abuser … it’s a comfort zone for them,” Bracey said. “I never begrudge anyone for staying (in such a relationship) because unless you’re in it, you don’t understand how hard it is to leave.”

Bracey, who acknowledged that the Jamestown Police Department received 1,102 domestic violence calls between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2013, said the number does not act as an accurate indicator of domestic violence at large, since many victims refuse to call in the first place.

“I really think it’s fear … they could be scared of the people they’re with … or there could be children involved,” Bracey said. “Incidents have probably gone up, but they simply haven’t been reported to the police.”

According to Officer John Rader of the Jamestown Police Department, the vast majority of domestic violence victims are females more than 25 years old and in a “dating-type” relationship.

“A lot of it has to do with smartphones nowadays,” said Rader, who described how Facebook pages – and social media in general – have led to an almost “constant surveillance” of partners’ activities, even after a break-up. “Before the Internet, we might have gotten one call during a break-up … now the same person will call two or three times in the same month (because he or she monitors their partner through social media).”

Alarmingly, of the approximately 3,000 domestic violence reports in Chautauqua County that were filled out in 2012, nearly half came out of Jamestown.

The Jamestown Police Department indicated that a domestic violence report was taken every 6.5 hours in 2013. Moreover, a person was charged approximately every 11.2 hours for committing a domestic violence act in the city.

“It’s frustrating … we don’t know the reasoning,” Bracey said. “It’s not that the services and education are not here, because they are.”

Bracey indicated that many are simply not aware of the options available in the city.

“They’re so many agencies that can help,” Bracey said. “People need to realize that they don’t need to stay in their situations. And it’s not always a matter of splitting people up. (With an) order of protection in place, (their partners) can move out, go to court and get mandated to get help … so they can still get back together if they want. The help is out there … it’s all about making a decision and sticking to it.”

Project Crossroads is located at the Jamestown Police Department, and can be reached at 483-7718.

Other agencies include the Salvation Army at 664-4108 and the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services at 661-8200.