Solving domestic violence Murder-suicides: Six fatalities involving couples in Howard County beg greater attention.

August 06, 1998

IT IS often better to err on the side of caution. Howard County officials don't have evidence three murder-suicides this year mean domestic violence is increasing. But they would be wise to act as though it were true.

Howard County had only one homicide last year. It makes sense to look at the common threads.

These were women killed by husbands or boyfriends who then killed themselves. In January, it was Vera Case and Dwight E. Case. In May, Joanne E. Olmert and James C. Campbell. Last month, Ellie Kasten and Robert Harris.

Domestic violence experts need to know if and how their intervention could have made a difference.

The number of domestic violence cases reported in Howard has changed little. Police responded to 2,111 domestic disturbance calls last year, 2,126 the year before. But the same period also saw a 22 percent increase in the number of women who sought assistance at the county's Domestic Violence Center. The number of nights that women and children sought shelter from abusive situations increased 25 percent.

The Domestic Violence Center has existed for more than 20 years, but neither it nor any other agency has been able to eliminate spousal abuse. The center provides temporary shelter, food and clothing. It also sponsors a program to help men learn to control their anger.

For every battered woman who seeks help, others are out there who never show up at the center.

State health officials want to expand a program in which hospitals routinely ask female patients as young as 14 whether they have experienced domestic abuse. This would help identify victims and get them out of dangerous situations.

Howard County's experience thus far this year shows more must be done to end abusive relationships before it is too late.

Pub Date: 8/06/98

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