CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Forty-nine domestic incidents were reported in Croton in 2010, down from 58 in 2008, ranking the village 25th per capita in such cases among 42 Westchester County municipalities.
The New York State Police in Cortlandt reported 416 domestic incidents in 2010, up 20 percent from the 348 reported in 2008. While more recent statistics are not yet available, Croton-on-Hudson police Lt. Russell Harper said he does not see a recent strong trend in either direction for domestic violence incidents in the village.
“I think it’s a good thing anytime you see a decrease in statistics,” Harper said of the 16 percent decline from 2008 to 2010. “I think it’s difficult to indicate a trend based on a few years, but a decrease is a good thing. We haven’t seen anything (to indicate a trend) from our statistics.”
Domestic violence isn't confined to one area of Westchester County; it happens in every community.
Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women show domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and sleepy towns like North Salem. Mount Vernon had the highest number of reported cases per capita in 2010, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
The county Office for Women issues the statistics every two years. Officials said the statistics don't take into account the many rape cases that go unreported.
Nancy Levin, chief development officer at My Sister's Place, said many Westchester residents don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public health issue,” she said.
About one in five women nationwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in her lifetime, said Jennifer Ryan Safsel, director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in recent years.
Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after she was reportedly choked to death. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Safsel said many cases go unreported.
Places such as Hope's Door and My Sisters' Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. Hope's Door provides a 24-hour, confidential emergency hotline at 888-438-8700. It also helps teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, something that's especially important because a growing number of women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin notes it's an issue across the board.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”