Domestic violence homicides on the rise

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — If police deem Sheena Baxter’s death a result of domestic violence, she would be one in three women who experience intimate partner violence in Kentucky.

According to the CDC, one in four women will experience intimate domestic violence in their lifetime. That’s nationwide, but in Kentucky the chances are greater.

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Greenhouse 17, a domestic violence shelter in Lexington, believes every case should be handled as if it could end just as Baxter’s did.

“I can tell you after 30 years of doing this work the one thing I can’t ever truly predict is which domestic violence abuser will kill and which one won’t,” says Greenhouse 17’s executive director Darlene Thomas.

The shelter that serves almost 7,000 annually says that’s why each case should be taken as a life or death matter.

“I think as a community and society we don’t always want to see the worst in people so we want to see the best and I think that undermines the safety of victims,” says Thomas.

There’s also been a rise in intimate domestic violence homicides. Thomas says since 2017 there’s been a 20% jump in these types of homicides. She says the majority of those homicide victims are women.

Thomas says sometimes a restraining order isn’t enough and just because it’s the right answer for someone, doesn’t mean it will be for everyone.

“We just have to keep our eyes open and our lens to what this looks like and not try to box everybody in a category because I’m afraid we’ll misread that and not be able to help survivors like they deserve to be helped,” says Thomas.

Thomas says a loss like Sheena Baxter’s ripples through the entire community, including the survivors.

“It’s that extra layer of awareness that ‘That could’ve been me’,” says Thomas.

She says all she and others can do is keep offering help.

“As a society we have to decide intimate partner violence is not acceptable,” says Thomas.

Equally as important is believing victims, not shaming them.

“You know they’re really trying to feel worthy of love and be loved and show love and hope that love conquers all so that sense of hope is not the crime. The crime is abusing that hope and doing harm. That’s the crime,” says Thomas.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call Greenhouse 17’s 24-hour crisis hotline at (800) 544-2022.

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