Columbia has highest rate of domestic violence in state - WSMV Channel 4

Columbia has highest rate of domestic violence in state

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COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

Tennessee is already statistically the third-most likely place in the country for a woman to be killed by a man, and within the state, one city stands out as the top city for domestic violence.

Advocates are begging authorities to help reduce domestic violence in Maury County, where Columbia wears the uncomfortable crown as the domestic violence capital of the state.

The city records 50 percent more cases per capita than Nashville and three times more than Clarksville.

The staff at Hope House in Columbia has spent six months looking at the numbers nobody else wants to. Despite only 34,000 residents, the city has 1,146 domestic violence victims. Only Memphis is even close.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say I am disappointed with how things have been handled in the past. I think there is a real need to address this issue, where the deficiencies are in the system and how we proceed," said Angela Slack, executive director at the Maury County Hope House.

But with so many victims of reported domestic violence, the number of people serving jail time doesn't add up. Something is happening between the time of the arrest and jail.

"It's looking like 50 percent of those cases are being dismissed, returned or the prosecutor is not pursuing charges. What message are we sending if 50 percent of those cases are being dismissed?" Slack asked.

Domestic violence survivor Mary Niles says the message is for women to stay scared.

"It's like they slapped them in the hand, saying, 'No, don't do this.' But it's just a matter of time before it escalates or they come back and do it again," Niles said.

District Attorney Mike Bottoms said his office takes domestic violence seriously and prosecutes the cases when it can.

"It's just not feasible to force everyone to go to court when they are insisting the charges be dropped," Bottoms said. "We'll get to work on it a little harder. It's an alarming statistic."

Hope House is promoting evidence-based prosecution, meaning investigators leave out the victim in favor of photographs, 911 calls and written statements from witnesses.

For more information on Hope House and its resources available to victims of domestic violence, visit http://www.hopehousetn.com/.

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