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Domestic violence assistance requests increase across ND

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The number of victims of domestic violence seeking assistance grew last year, state and local officials say.

The North Dakota Council on Abused Women's Services, made up of 21 local domestic violence crisis intervention centers around the state, released its 2009 statistics, citing local crisis centers provided services to 4,569 new domestic violence victims, a 7 percent increase from 2008.

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Locally, clients seeking services have also increased, said Darianne Johnson, with the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center in Dickinson.

Johnson said 125 new people sought services from the center in 2009, adding 150 incidents were reported in 2009.

"What that means is that 25 of the people we worked with, we had worked with before," Johnson said.

In 2008, there were 137 incidents reported, with 110 new victims.

The increase could be due to a number of reasons, including an influx of people to the area, Johnson said.

"We're starting to see more people moving to Dickinson, some of those people have issues, but a lot of people that we serve are already residents of the eight-county area that we serve," Johnson said. "We don't like to see our numbers grow, but we're hoping that part of the reason we're seeing it is that we're getting information out into the public more that we're here."

Statewide, statistics have been consistent, not showing very much of an increase or decrease over the years, said Tessa Sicble, NDCAWS public relations and communications coordinator.

"I think that when we talk about increases, they are gradual over time," said Linda Isakson, with NDCAWS. "We don't see a huge jump, but if you take a look compared to 2007, 2008, you'll see slight increases."

Isakson said she thinks the 21 centers across the state have increased their capacity and are able to offer a more complete set of services.

Johnson said the center sees many clients referred from law enforcement, social services or community action.

Services offered through the center include: A 24-hour crisis line, a shelter, crisis counseling, a safe visitation center and personal and legal advocacy, among others.

Additionally, NDCAWS reports 4,874 incidents of domestic violence were reported in 2009, a 6 percent increase from 2008. At least 75 percent of those victims were physically abused and 94 percent of the victims were women.

Johnson said in 2009, 78 percent of the Dickinson center's clients are under the age of 44 and over the age of 18. Two percent were under the age of 18, she said. Additionally, Johnson said 96 percent of clients were female and 4 percent were male. A drop from 2008, which had 9 percent of the center's clients listed as male.

"We don't see a huge number of male victims," Johnson said. "I think it's the same as with female clients, it's all of the same dynamics: They are afraid to ask for help, they don't know where to turn, all of those kinds of things factor into both."

There have been some pretty tragic incidents in the past year because of domestic violence, Johnson said, adding that in her experience, incidents are steady and don't fluctuate much with the seasons.

"I think more information and more training have taken place, but I still think there are victims we still need to reach in remote areas of North Dakota," Sicble said.

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