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Domestic violence linked to rising homicide rate in Pierce County

Pierce County’s homicide rate is on track to reach record levels this year, with more deaths being connected to domestic violence.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Pierce County has had 36 homicides so far this year, already passing last year’s total of 32.

Sgt. Darren Moss of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department warned that if current rate of homicides continues, there could be up to 42 homicides this year in unincorporated Pierce County alone.

But as concerning as that may be for law enforcement, another trend has emerged: domestic violence has been linked to a growing number of homicides in unincorporated Pierce County.

The Crystal Judson Family Justice Center said they have gotten more calls from law enforcement to help with domestic violence cases. 

The level of violence in these cases has risen, according to the center's director, Craig Roberts. Many of the reasons can be linked back to stresses from the pandemic.

“Given everything that we’ve gone through as individuals, and all those mitigating factors, it’s not a shock,” he said. “We’ve had the pandemic, the isolation, the loss of jobs and income, kids not going to school, being home 24/7. These are all factors that lead to increased violence.”

Phebe Brako-Owusu, therapist and CEO of 253 Therapy and Consult, says it was difficult for service providers to help victims during the pandemic.  

“A lot of support that was occurring in offices is happening on phones and on tablets and on computers, so there isn’t that privacy of being in the office like we used to, so a lot of folks are hesitant to get the help and support that they would need,” she said. “Just having a community and a society that can be there for people, they’re not necessarily getting that.”

Owusu says some therapists have tried to use the tools available as best they could, such as using code words and picture messages to create a safe space for victims.

Now as things open back up, Roberts hopes to get more calls to his center, because it means more people are getting the help they need.

“If our numbers go up, that’s a good thing, it means that more people are coming and seeking services than have before,” he pointed out.

Roberts went on to encourage anyone who needs help to reach out, because resources are available, and for more information, you can call (253) 798-4166.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, text START to 88788 or visit thehotline.org for additional guidance and resources.

Visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence website for additional local resources.


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