Birmingham, Ala. (WIAT) — It is only November, and Birmingham has already experienced three times as many domestic violence related homicides than all of Jefferson and Shelby County in 2015.
Lieutenant Sean Edwards says that as of November 22, there have been 18 people killed in incidents where domestic violence is suspected. Most of those killings were reported to you right here at WIAT.com.
We examined the last five years of domestic violence related homicides across the entire state of Alabama, and according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency,166 people have been killed as a result of domestic violence related homicides.
Here is how those numbers break down for Jefferson and Shelby Counties:
YEAR STATE JEFFERSON & SHELBY CO.
2010 36 9
2011 26 7
2012 24 3
2013 24 5
2014 24 6
2015 32 5
TOTAL: 166 35
Domestic violence has been so deadly in Birmingham this year that Police Chief A.C. Roper called it an “epidemic.”
“I think as a society and as a community we can do much better,” Roper said.
He likes the idea of awareness and education working hand in hand with enforcement.
“The thing about enforcement is that it comes after the fact. Something has to have occurred for there to be an enforcement action,” Roper said. “But the education and awareness the conversation is very important. I think we need our beauticians involved, we need our cosmetologist involved. So when they see those symptoms they can try to intervene and put a brochure in that persons hand or encourage them to make that call and try to get help. All of that works together.”
Community partners like the YWCA also make a big difference by helping victims get out of bad situations. Whether they need domestic violence education, shelter, or help in the courts; the YWCA offers some form of support.
Annetta Nunn is a victim’s advocate at the YWCA, as well as a former Birmingham Police Chief, who talked with CBS42 News about the deadly year for domestic violence victims in Birmingham.
“If we can save one life we want to do that. We like to think sometimes some numbers will go up,” Nunn said. “The 2015 numbers as far as aggravated assault were higher in 2015 than in 2014. We like to think that that’s because of our efforts in making people aware of the warning signs of the dangers as opposed to more of them happening.”
The numbers on murders as opposed to assaults, however, were not as encouraging.
“When it comes to the actual taking of lives we know that, that number is up this year,” Nunn said. “We want to always at every turn advise people of the warnings signs if they know something is going on get involved.”
According to survivor Mecca Scarver, the education component is helpful because some victims don’t recognize they are being victimized until it’s too late and they are caught in a cycle of abuse. That’s what she says happened to her.
“I’ve been dealing with this since 2012. And of course like most victims, you know you tend to go back, think that things are going to get better,” Scarver said. “‘Maybe he’ll change,’ and in my case that wasn’t the case. It got worse.”
Scarver told CBS42 News that the abuse began with words, and later escalated.
“Verbal abuse was a first sign for me. It was verbal abuse before it was physical abuse,” Scarver said. “The verbal abuse was bad to the point where you could look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I know I’m pretty,’ but you would go home to this individual and question yourself like maybe ‘I’m not pretty’ or ‘What am I doing wrong?’ or ‘Is there something that I can do to make him happy’?”
For a long time, like many victims of abuse, Scarver hid what was happening from her family.
“I never saw anything like that go on in my household. But I know my dad always raised me to never let anyone put their hands on me or disrespect me or always have courage and confidence in myself,” Scarver said. “To be honest, I was embarrassed at the fact that I was putting up with this situation and I really couldn’t understand why I kept allowing it to happen.”
Scarver is learning all she can about domestic violence and sharing what she’s learned with others. She told CBS42 News that she is getting help from a therapist.
For Scarver, having part of her story make local headlines at a time when women are being killed by abusers empowered her to tell the rest of her story. Especially in what has been one of the deadliest years for victims of domestic violence in Birmingham.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation and every time you hear a story like that, it always comes out then when that young woman or that woman is killed that she went and filed this report or she got a PFA (protection from abuse order) against this man,” Scarver said.
Scarver told CBS42 News that families’ decisions to ignore the signs of abuse can lead to a situation where people can’t escape until it’s too late.
“Or the family comes out and says, ‘Well, they got into an argument.’ or ‘He threatened her and he had been threatening her,’ and this is what’s been going on. But no one really pays attention until you’re dead,” Scarver said. “And that’s what I was afraid of that no one was going to hear my story or no one was going to pay attention to all the abuse that I endured until I was laying in my grave and I did not want my story to be heard that way.”
Below are some resources that help victims of abuse:
2nd Chance: http://2ndchanceinc.org/
Counties Served: Etowah, Cleburne, Calhoun, Talladega
(256) 236-7233 Crisis Line / (256) 236-7381 Office
Counties Served: Walker
(205) 387-1157 Crisis Line/Office
Family Sunshine Center: http://familysunshine.org/
Counties Served: Chilton, Autauga, Elmore, Montgomery, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw
(334) 263-0218 Crisis Line / (334) 206-2100 Office
Harbor Haus/Victim Services of Cullman http://www.vsoccullman.org/domestic-violence/harbor-haus
Counties Served: Cullman
(256) 734-6100 Crisis Line / (256) 775-2600 Office
Kelley’s Rainbow: https://www.facebook.com/Kelleys-Rainbow-131858863685169/
Counties Served: Marshall, DeKalb, Cherokee
(256) 891-0019 Crisis Line / (256) 891-9864 Office
SABRA Sanctuary: https://www.facebook.com/SABRA-Sanctuary-Inc-265503496805523/
Counties Served: Perry, Dallas, Wilcox, Sumter, Marengo, Greene
(334) 874-8711 Crisis Line / (334) 877-4645 Office
SafeHouse of Shelby County: http://safehouse.org/
Counties Served: Shelby, Clay, Coosa
(205) 669-7233 Crisis Line / (205) 669-1877 Office
Counties Served: Lauderdale, Colbert, Lawrence, Winston, Marion, Franklin
(256) 767-6210 Crisis Line / (256) 767-3076 Office
Turning Point: http://www.turningpointservices.org/
Counties Served: Lamar, Fayette, Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Bibb, Hale
(205) 758-0808 Crisis Line/Office
YWCA Domestic Violence Services: https://www.ywcabham.org/
Counties Served: Blount, St. Clair, Jefferson
(205) 322-4878 Crisis Line / (205) 322-9922 Office