Domestic Violence Slips Past Radars; the Month's Purpose Is to Raise Awareness of the Types of Help Available

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Byline: DANA TREEN

In all 11 of Jacksonville's domestic homicides last year, someone knew there were troubles in the relationship, according to a review by a multi-agency team including the State Attorney's Office.

But in most of the cases there was no police involvement, no social service involvement and, thus, no chance for support systems to intervene and prevent the deaths, according to the report.

"In about half of the cases, the violence went unreported," Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said at Tuesday's kickoff to mark the beginning of a month of awareness about domestic violence.

Rutherford and advocates from Northeast Florida domestic violence shelters in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties also marked the importance of a new state law aimed at making it easier for some victims to get protection.

Beginning today, victims of dating violence have protections extended to them.

The Barwick-Ruschak Act signed into law in July was passed after the former boyfriend of a University of Central Florida student killed her and a friend in 2007. The new law will give police more latitude in making dating-violence arrests.

"It will allow victims of dating violence to receive services in obtaining injunctions, and it enables law enforcement to make warrantless arrests for assaults and batteries in any criminal act committed by someone who is currently involved in a romantic, ongoing relationship with another person," Rutherford said.

In 2007, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office documented 7,167 domestic-violence incidents, Rutherford said. Per month, officers respond to more than 2,000 domestic-violence cases, or about 5 percent of all dispatched calls. …