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Officials say bad economy fuels domestic violence in South Florida

Domestic violence allegations and confirmed instances of domestic abuse are starkly on the rise in Miami-Dade County and elsewhere throughout South Florida, say both advocates for domestic violence victims and emergency shelter workers.

There are three state-certified domestic abuse centers operating in Palm Beach and Broward counties, and officials at each of them cite a disturbing trend regarding domestic violence, namely, this: The frequency of such incidents is up, as is the level of violence in many instances.

"Not only are there more people coming for services, but the incidents that are occurring are more violent and more lethal," says Mary Riedel, who is the president of the Broward County Women in Distress center. Officials at that center also state that they are seeing more male victims than in previous years.

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, a shelter in southern Palm Beach County, is experiencing a nearly 40-percent jump over last year in persons seeking emergency help at the shelter.

"We are seeing a tremendous increase in the people coming in," says the shelter's president, Pam O'Brien.

Advocates uniformly cite the same underlying factors when asked to explain what is driving the surge in domestic violence incidents. Most specifically, they point to the dampened economy and the attendant pressures it is putting on many families and households.

"Money is already a stressor, and it exacerbates the situation terribly," says Mary Cauthen, a director at the Palm Beach County YWCA.

Domestic abuse workers hope mightily that the economy will turn, since that will result in more hiring, fewer job losses and less pressure associated with bills and other payment obligations.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "In tight economic times, domestic violence incidents jump in South Florida" Peter Franceschina, Dec. 11, 2011

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