Tracey Thurman became the first woman in the nation to bring her local police department to court for failing to protect her against her husband. Her successful 1984 suit against Torrington changed Connecticut law, forcing police to arrest abusers instead of just telling them to quiet down.
Yet women are no safer today, some experts say. A quarter-century after Mrs. Thurman was left with 13 stab wounds and a broken neck in a friend's driveway, domestic abuse reports are holding steady statewide at roughly 20,000 a year.
Indeed, the problem appears to be worsening, as recent cases attest, including the June slaying of Alice Morrin by her husband, who then killed himself. Family violence has increased fourfold in Hartford in the past five years, the city's police chief says. Shelters and hot lines are getting many more calls this year.
Why? It's a question The Courant will try to answer in coming weeks. Whatever the answer, these statistics are unpardonable.
Domestic violence cuts across racial and economic lines. It can prey on anyone from the homeless to celebrities such as the singer Rihanna, beaten in February by her boyfriend, R&B star Chris Brown. According to the Connecticut Post, it's the second most prevalent crime in a town that's a symbol of wealth — Greenwich. The local YWCA's Domestic Abuse Services program fielded 1,800 hot line calls last year.
Domestic abuse is straining the resources of emergency shelters, courts and prosecutors. Those who police it — at great danger to themselves — are not immune to it in their own homes. And it extends beyond human family members to pets: A 2007 state law allows courts to impose orders protecting animals that are threatened by the monsters at home.
What we've been doing so far obviously hasn't worked. Domestic abuse arrests have skyrocketed since Tracey Thurman's pleas for protection from Torrington police were ignored and she was stabbed and partially paralyzed in 1983.
If swine flu killed two dozen people last year, there would be calls for universal immunization against the epidemic. Yet the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 20 to 25 people in Connecticut are lost every year to domestic violence — including the officers who investigate it and the children too young to escape it.
We've grown far too tolerant of this epidemic.
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