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Fight against domestic violence in Pennsylvania continues

Anyone in Philadelphia who lives in a home where violence is a frequent occurrence knows how shattering each instance can be. Whatever their age or gender, those who suffer from domestic violence often have no place to go but to shelters if they want to get away from their abusers.

Police officers acknowledge that repeats of domestic violence incidents throughout the state are tough to prevent. In 2012 alone, for example, 110 victims died statewide from domestic violence.

Even though many domestic abuse victims die each year, as many as half of those who report abuse to police back out during court hearings or trials. Police can do a lot during a domestic abuse investigation, but as a practical matter they cannot always compel a victim to testify, especially if testifying is dangerous. Many victims' advocates want to strengthen domestic violence rules but successful prosecution still depends on victims' pressing charges and testifying in court.

The plight of domestic abuse victims is often worsened by the fact that they often are not aware of their rights. Their situation is often made worse because if they do not testify against their abusers, and other witnesses do not step forward, the cases against the abusers will likely be dismissed.

Victims of domestic abuse may feel that legal action against their abusers is useless. Some victims depend on his or her abuser financially and may feel the abuser will change eventually. Staying in an abusive relationship, however, can compromise their lives and even threaten the safety of any children in the home.

Every family faces challenges, but even the worst situation never gives a person the right to abuse family members. Victims can and should defend themselves through legal means by reporting abuse to authorities. Once safety is ensured, victims can request restraining orders or file criminal complaints.

Source: The Tribune-Democrat, "Painful truth: Cycle of domestic violence tough to break, police say," Kathy Mellott, Dec. 15, 2013

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