BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – The number of domestic incident reports rose 19 percent in Bronxville last year, according to Police Department statistics.
Sixteen reports were filed in 2011 and 19 in 2012, Police Chief Christopher Satriale said. But he added that those figures don't represent the number of arrests.
"Every victim of domestic violence has a right, whether or not they want to proceed with charges," said Satriale. "What I can say is that we have a pro-arrest policy for calls where a crime has been committed. That means if someone tells us that they're a victim of domestic violence, and are hesitant to file a charge, we go ahead to file the complaint because victims are often intimidated into not taking action.”
Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women show that domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and sleepy towns like North Salem. Mount Vernon had the highest per capita number of reported cases, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
But those figures are from 2010, the most recent year for which information was available.
Nancy Levin, chief development officer at My Sister's Place, says many Westchester residents don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year," she said. "It's a public health issue.”
Nationwide, approximately one in five women have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel, director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in recent years.
Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after allegedly being choked to death. Her husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Safsel said many cases go unreported.
Organizations such as Hope's Door and My Sister's Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of abusive relationships, which is important because a growing number of women find themselves in them, Safsel said.
Levin said violence against women is an issue that cuts across all social and economic classes.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”