Cuyahoga County is one of 12 communities across the country slated to receive federal grants to help reduce domestic violence homicides through the Justice Department’s recently unveiled Domestic Violence Prevention Demonstration Initiative (DVHP). Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday morning that the Justice Department will hand out over $2 million in grants, including $192,447 awarded to Cuyahoga County.
Though the annual rate of domestic violence in the country has dropped over 60% since 1994, intimate partner homicides are still a concern: they account for 14% of homicides nationwide. As Biden also announced, “every single day in America, three women die at the hands of their boyfriend, or their husband, or their ex-husband.” Additionally, studies show that 40% of mass shootings over the last three years began with the perpetrator assaulting or killing a wife, ex-wife, or girlfriend.
Officials say that there are several behavior patterns that have been identified as cardinal risk factors for domestic homicides, including strangulation attempts, stalking, sexual abuse, controlling or jealous behavior, and physical or verbal threats. The funds allocated to the county will help use this kind of evidence—gathered at crime scenes, hospital emergency rooms, and protective order hearings—to “identify potential victims and monitor high-risk offenders.”
Firearm ownership compounds risk factors for fatal domestic disputes. While past domestic offenders aren’t allowed to own firearms, not all states enforce background checks for firearm sales, and most states (including Ohio) don’t require background checks for private transactions through unlicensed dealers (known as the “gun show loophole”). Biden himself established a correlation between the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday approval of a bill that would mandate expanded background checks for all firearm sales and the DVHP initiative—“The issue of domestic violence and reducing gun violence are connected,” he said, noting that the number of fatal shootings of women by their partners is 38% lower in states with comprehensive background check requirements.
While the White House press release doesn’t indicate why the 12 jurisdictions were chosen—other designated grant sites include Boston, Brooklyn, Rutland, VT, North Charleston, SC, and Palm Beach County, of all places—all the selected locations had to submit applications last October, which included project narratives that demonstrated their “capacity for enhancing services” and outlined their existing strengths and weaknesses.