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A need for change 

We must do more to prevent intimate partner violence

When it comes to domestic violence, there a lot of stats out there. For example, every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other. And this example, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Or this one, it's estimated that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year.

These are frightening statistics.

They can and must be changed. And there are signs that they are. Allow me to use just one more stat. Between 1993 and 2010, the overall rate of domestic violence dropped nearly two-thirds. That's good, but it's not good enough.

Let me tell you what the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office has been doing to deal with the issue of domestic violence in our communities. We start with education, and I can't emphasize this enough. It begins in the academy when our cadets receive specialized training in dealing with domestic violence situations. That education continues when our new deputies are paired with a field-training officer and they are out on the streets coming into contact with those types of scenarios. And the education doesn't stop there. Every two years, every one of our deputies receives specialized instruction in the area of domestic violence prevention and situational training. And they must pass this training or risk having to take the course again.

In addition, members of the Sheriff's Office are very involved in the community with events that highlight domestic violence awareness. For instance, every year, I and many other employees of the Sheriff's Office take part in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event where participants walk a mile in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence. We also work closely with community organizations like RISE, which provides crisis intervention and treatment to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. And Stand Strong, formerly the Women's Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County, which provides services for domestic violence survivors and is actively working to end domestic violence in the county.

But despite all of this, sometimes people don't know whether they are in an abusive relationship. And sometimes, they are not sure what constitutes domestic violence. It doesn't just have to be a physical act. It can be emotional, verbal, sexual, or financial in nature.

If you believe you are the victim of domestic violence, you need to get out of that relationship and find help. Help is out there. Law enforcement agencies in the county and local nonprofit groups are here to serve you. We can help.

Remember all of those stats I mentioned earlier? Well, it's just not about stats. It's about the people behind those stats. That's why you will see purple ribbons and purple pins during this month, to remind everyone of the people who are victims and survivors of domestic violence. There are a number of events planned in San Luis Obispo County this month. But it is my hope that we keep this message of awareness and action alive not just during this month, but into the next month and beyond. Δ

Ian Parkinson is the sheriff-coroner of San Luis Obispo County. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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