CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While domestic violence continues to be a problem in West Virginia and nationwide, an advocate says more focus needs to be put on confronting perpetrators, not just victims.
"I would really like to see a shift off of victims and really look at perpetrators, batterers, and say, 'Your behavior is unacceptable,'" said Tonia Thomas, team coordinator for the West Virginia Coalition against Domestic Violence. "They have friends and family and co-workers too. I think that's where the impact is going to be made in our state."
People don't have to physically witness the abuse to know that it's happening, she said.
"We usually know what's going on," Thomas said. "We need to call out the person using the abuse and say, 'Hey, what you're doing is unacceptable,'" Thomas said.
She added, "I don't mean physically engage, [I mean] really hold people accountable for what they're doing and say this isn't cool with me."
Often, domestic violence prevention focuses on the victims and what they need to do, she said.
"All the expectations are placed on victims," Thomas said. "When we focus solely on victims, we tend to let the perpetrator off the hook. We don't tell them, 'This is what we need to do.'"
On a single day in West Virginia in 2012, the state's 14 domestic violence programs served 324 victims, according to a survey by the National Network to End Domestic Violence. The 324 included 143 victims who sought refuge at an emergency shelter and 181 adults and children who received other help, including counseling, legal advocacy and children's support groups.
The YWCA of Charleston has several events and observances planned throughout October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Those events included a peaceful rally on Kanawha Boulevard Thursday afternoon and will include a candlelight vigil at the Clay County Courthouse Tuesday.
A study released in September ranks West Virginia eighth in the nation for states where men murder women, according to a report released recently by the Violence Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy agency. Most of those homicides were domestic violence-related, according to the study.
The study, "When Men Murder Women," analyzes 2011 national data (the latest information available) and reports on females who were murdered by males in single victim/ single offender incidents. The state's female homicide rate was 1.70 per 100,000 women, according to the report.