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Domestic incidents rising in Charles Town

August 20, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Police Officer Joe Forman was called to investigate a domestic dispute recently in which a woman had been picked up by her husband and slammed face-first into a wall.

After he left that call, he was sent to break up another domestic incident, this time involving harsh words exchanged between a couple.

In a larger city, two domestic calls in one shift may not seem like a lot, but in Charles Town, police said they are seeing more domestic assault and battery than ever.

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The number of calls has "spiked up" and police officers are searching for reasons why, said Sgt. R.J. James.

Police Chief Mike Aldridge said that from July 1, 1995, to June 30, 1996, the department handled 88 domestic calls.

From July 1, 1996, to June 30, the department handled 101 domestic calls, about a 13 percent increase, Aldridge said. The increase in domestic violence has occurred at the same time that all other crimes in Charles Town have gone down, Aldridge said.

Officers thought that the last fiscal year was the worst in recent memory for domestic violence, but this fiscal year already is shaping up to be even worse, Aldridge said.

The police department handled 15 domestic violence calls in July and officers investigated nine in the first 10 days of August, Aldridge said.

Aldridge said an estimated 90 percent of all of the domestic violence calls have involved alcohol, with the attacker, the victim or both intoxicated.

"I don't believe this is something police can address. We can only respond when called," Aldridge said.

James said that officers provide the victim with information on shelters and counseling programs, but in some cases the battered women are more interested in protecting their attacker than in seeking help.

Lt. Doug Nichols said that after one recent call, a woman who had been assaulted threatened to sue the police department if the officers did not stop broadcasting the attacker's name and description over the police radio.

Nichols said police are often called to the same homes numerous times, which is frustrating.

James said the violence continues to escalate until the victim takes action by calling police.

* Victims of domestic violence can get help by calling the Shenandoah Women's Center at 1-304-725-7080.

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