Seven — or roughly 45 percent — of the 16 homicides that occurred in Fairfax County in 2010 were domestic-violence related, according to a study released May 6 by the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.
The team, established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2007, is a multi-disciplinary group of professionals made up of representatives from law enforcement, family services and other county agencies and community organizations. It is one of 15 such teams throughout the commonwealth that reviews domestic violence cases and attempts to determine indicators that prompt early identification of the circumstances that can lead to domestic violence and homicides.
“About half of the county’s homicides are the result of domestic violence,” said Fairfax County-Wide Domestic Violence Coordinator Sandy Bromley. “That remains pretty consistent year to year.”
The new study shows that within the majority of the domestic-related homicides in 2010, several co-existing factors were present.
The study states that in 2010 six domestic violence offenders killed a total of seven victims, with one case involving two victims. Of those six offenders, five were men and one was a woman. Six of the victims were women, and one a man. A total of five of the offenders abused alcohol, exhibited controlling behavior, and exhibited jealousy, according to the study, which also claims that four of the victims had a child from a prior relationship, experienced financial hardship, and had experienced domestic violence prior to the incidents in which they were killed.
Fairfax County leads the region in domestic violence arrests, according to another study released in 2012 by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Criminal Justice Research Center.
That study — Domestic Violence in Virginia 2006-2010 — claims domestic violence arrests in Northern Virginia rose nearly 70 percent between 2006 and 2010. Arrests were most pronounced in Fairfax County, where they were up 306 percent during that five-year period.
Bromley says she believes that uptick in arrests is primarily attributable to the fact that beginning in 2007, each of Fairfax County’s eight district police stations was assigned a “domestic violence detective” whose primary focus is to investigate all domestic violence-related claims within their district. But she says these detectives still need the community’s help in reporting domestic abuse.
“We need the community to step up and take people seriously when they disclose information about domestic abuse,” she said. “That includes those who disclose plans or intent to commit domestic violence.”
The new study cites one 2010 Fairfax County domestic-related homicide case in which an offender called a friend around 7 a.m. one morning, stating he needed a gun to “go kill his girlfriend and then kill himself.” The study states that the friend told the offender to “hang up the phone and get some sleep.” The victim in that case was murdered by 7:30 a.m., the study states.
The study also says that domestic violence has a profound effect on children who witness it.
Based on 2011 Fairfax County Youth Survey statistics, the study estimates that nearly 13,000 students in Fairfax County Public Schools have witnessed physical violence between their parents or guardians within their homes.
“Domestic violence is the engine that drives this court,” said Robert A. Bermingham, director of court services for Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
Bermingham said about 85 percent of all adults placed on probation by the court are due to domestic violence issues.
Anyone wishing to report domestic violence within Fairfax County can call the Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 703-360-7273.