RIVERTOWNS, N.Y. – The number of reported domestic incidents rose sharply in Hastings-on-Hudson from 2008 to 2010 while remaining virtually unchanged in Ardsley and Dobbs Ferry.
Statistics provided by the Westchester County Office for Women show 44 incidents in Hastings in 2008 and 98 in 2010, a jump of more than 130 percent.
Domestic incidents in Ardsley dropped from 20 to 18, while Dobbs Ferry reported 134 in 2008 and 143 in 2010.
Hastings Police acknowledged the jump in domestic incident reports but would not comment on the reason for the uptick.
"We really do not have any comment and we do not have a specific officer that deals specifically with domestic violence," Hastings Police Lt. David Dosin said.
The latest figures are from 2010, the most recently available information. Officials say the statistics don't take into account the many rape cases that go unreported.
New York state changed the definition of domestic violence in 2008, expanding it to include more than just spouse-to-spouse incidents.
Nancy Levin, Chief Development Officer at My Sisters' Place, an organization that counsels women and children who’ve been victims of domestic abuse, says many residents living in Westchester 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.
Dobbs Ferry Police Chief Betsy Gelardi said the Office For Women was a strong resource for local police. "We take part in a training program with the (Office For Women)," Gelardi said.
Approximately one in five women across the nation have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel, the director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” Safsel said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.” And Safsel added, many cases go unreported.
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence cases in the news in recent years, including Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, who died in January after she was reportedly choked her to death. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Locally, organizations 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. They also help 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 said that 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.”
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