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Domestic violence on the rise in Pa. counties

February 24, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Domestic violence is on the rise in Franklin and Fulton Counties and more victims are seeking help, according to a report released by Women In Need Victim Services Inc.

Figures show a total of 1,168 clients in the two counties sought help from the Chambersburg-based victims group in 1995-96, up 38 from the previous year. The figures include 983 adult victims, 144 children and 41 others. Last year's total shows an increase of 340 new clients from 1990-91.

"Violence itself is increasing as far as the severity of the crime," said Karen Barry, community education specialist for the group.

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The group's figures reflect a trend reported by the United States Department of Health and Human Services this year placing levels of violence within the family at a record high and increasing throughout the 1990s.

The group's sexual assault program has also seen an increase in the types of services provided.

Last year, 61 percent of the new sexual assault cases were children under the age of 18, the report said.

The program has grown from 217 sexual assault clients served in 1990-91, to an average of 306 clients per year, according to the report.

The increase is also indicative of greater public awareness, Barry said.

More people are seeking help with the knowledge that there's greater community support in domestic violence situations, Barry said.

Hotline calls for domestic violence-related crimes have also continued to steadily grow to over 19 percent since 1990-91, the report states. In 1995-96, the group received 2,974 hotline calls, compared to 2,010 in 1990-91.

Though the number of victims is up, annual report figures show a decrease in the number of protection orders filed.

Last year, 181 orders were filed through the group, down 19 from 1990-91.

Those figures do not include protection orders filed through private attorneys or by people on their own, Barry said.

Though it's difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decrease in protection orders, Barry said she and other workers at the victim services group believe many are afraid to file the orders, or file them and then drop the charges soon after.

Attention to recent local domestic violence-related murders contribute to the fear, Barry said.

"Most protection orders do work and they can reduce the violence, say, within the next six months," Barry said.

Though the victim services group did see a dip in the number of domestic violence cases in 1994-95, it's on the rise again and expected to increase, Barry said.

"We anticipate the numbers will keep growing," Barry said.

In response, the group plans to expand its services, including offering programs in the communities and schools, Barry said.

The group's estimated operating budget for the year is $400,000, Barry said.

The group is funded in part by federal and state money, including the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. The Franklin County United Way and Franklin/Fulton Drug and Alcohol Program also contribute money, Barry said.

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