‘Tip of the iceberg:’ Kentucky releases domestic violence data report and it’s ‘pretty alarming’

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. 

You can also contact any of Kentucky’s 15 domestic violence programs

What is known about intimate partner violence in Kentucky isn’t the whole picture; research suggests only around 54% of of domestic violence incidents like rape or assault are reported to police. (Photo from Getty Images, via Kentucky Lantern)

By Sarah Ladd
Kentucky Lantern

Over a seven-month period last year, there were nearly 27,000 alleged cases of child abuse with a domestic violence component in Kentucky, the 2023 Domestic Violence Data Report shows. 

From April 22 to Dec. 31, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and help hotlines received 26,582 “unique reports” of child abuse “in which there were also allegations of domestic violence,” according to the statewide report, released Monday.  

Cortney Downs, chief equity officer for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said this number is “pretty alarming.”

Cortney Downs (Photo from Kentucky Lantern)

“Those are real people, and … this is a significant part of their life, day in and day out,” Downs told the Lantern. “Parents, the non-offending caregivers, are having to think every day about how to keep their kids safe in a very different way than a lot of other parents. You have older siblings who are having to think about how to keep their younger siblings safe in a very different way than a lot of other people.”   

The report also shows the number of adult Kentuckians who experienced intimate partner violence decreased slightly in 2023 from 2022. 

In 2022, the first of its kind report showed about half of Kentucky women — 45.3% — and around 35.5% of men experienced intimate partner violence — or threat of it — in their lifetimes.

The 2023 report shows that from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, that number decreased to 44.5% of women and 32.9% of men. 

This includes, according to the report, “being fearful or concerned for safety, any post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, injury, need for medical care, housing services, victim advocate services, and/or legal services, missing at least one day of work or school, and/or contacting a crisis hotline.” 

The state began gathering this data in compliance with a 2022 Republican bill that directed agencies to annually gather and publish data on domestic and dating violence and abuse. 

Data in it comes from the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet’s Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center, Kentucky State Police, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

By the numbers

The report shows that in Kentucky last year: 

• 41,887 electronic JC-3 forms (documenting alleged violence) were filed. This is up from 2022, when there were 38,708 electronic JC-3 forms filed across Kentucky. 

• 7,744 arrests were made for incidents involving domestic or dating violence and abuse. This is down from 2022, when there were 8,867 arrests. The decrease is because the report excluded human trafficking this year, according to the Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, “to help provide the state a better snapshot for progress to be made.” 

• 17,036 emergency protective orders were served by the Kentucky State Police.  This is an increase from 2022, when police served 16,402 emergency protective orders (EPOs), which are short-term restrictions on  the accused’s movements until the issue can go before a judge, which the court system aims to do within two weeks. 

• 15,104 individuals received services from ZeroV’s 15 regional domestic violence programs.

• 23,381 crisis/hotline calls were received through ZeroV’s 15 regional domestic violence programs. This is an increase from the 21,241 crisis calls in 2022.

‘Scary’ to report

What is known about intimate partner violence in Kentucky isn’t the whole picture; research suggests only around 54% of domestic violence incidents like rape or assault are reported to police. 

“The true prevalence and impact of domestic violence goes far beyond the scope of the data captured within this report,” the report says. 

The data that is known “is almost like the tip of the iceberg,” said Downs. “There are probably a lot more people — hundreds, thousands, potentially, of other people — across the state who are experiencing this currently, have experienced intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, and just didn’t say anything.” 

Angela Yannelli (Photo from Kentucky Lantern)

And any amount of interpersonal violence is too much, advocates say. 

Angela Yannelli, the CEO of ZeroV (formerly known as the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence), said “any level of violence greater than zero is a concern that deserves the attention of our commonwealth.” 

Ending such violence needs a comprehensive approach, she said. 

“We need a strong support system that makes sure everyone can access food, healthcare and housing, which would make it easier for survivors to get away from abusive relationships,” Yannelli said in a statement. “And finally, we need to abolish the cultural norms that allow for and perpetuate (intimate partner violence) to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

Community members — and lawmakers — need to band together to end cycles of violence and the stigma around reporting it, Downs with KYA said. 

“In general, I think it is very hard, it’s very scary, it’s very dangerous to even report at all, to tell anyone about what’s going on,” she said. 

Solutions to ending violence will be different in different areas of the state, Downs said.  “It’s 2024. This isn’t a new or emerging issue, and so reading this report, to me, felt like an urgent call for action.” 

Lawmakers should work to find solutions to ending violence, she said, and listen to input from the experts in different regions.

“We all know somebody or multiple people who have gone through it. Non-offending parents and their children really cannot afford to have those in positions of power spending another year being just horrified or shocked by the data and then not following through with action.” 

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: info@kentuckylantern.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *