Chelan and Douglas Record More DV Incidents, but Still Below State Average

by Dr. Kelley Cullen

Not only do survivors of domestic violence experience physical and emotional trauma, but they often lose time from work and school, impacting their family’s economic well-being as well. Domestic violence can also cause generational trauma that is passed on.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Survivors can experience mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. They are at higher risk for engaging in behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, and risky sexual activity. People from groups that have been marginalized, such as people from racial and ethnic minority groups, are at higher risk for worse consequences. 

Although the personal consequences of domestic violence are devastating, the CDC points out that there are also many costs to society. The lifetime economic cost associated with medical services for domestic violence-related injuries, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice and other costs, is $3.6 trillion in 2018 dollars The cost of domestic violence over a victim’s lifetime was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men. 

Using data to improve our communities. 

Chelan Douglas Trends 7.1.4 Total Domestic Violence Offenses & Rate per 1,000 Residents provides data from the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) Risk & Protection Profiles for Substance Abuse Prevention Planning for both counties as well as for the cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. The counties are benchmarked against the state average. Because of variations in populations over time and between jurisdictions, domestic violence related offenses are reported as a rate per 1,000 persons.  

Domestic violence includes any violence of one family member against another family member. Family can include spouses, former spouses, parents who have children in common regardless of marital status, adults who live in the same household, and parents and their children. When more than one victim is involved, an offense is filed for each victim. Offenses focus on the nature of the crime, while arrests focus on the apprehended accused perpetrator. Many offenses occur without arresting perpetrators.   

What does the data tell us? 

. Since a decline in rates from 2010 to 2014, the rate of local domestic violence incidents per 1,000 residents in the combined counties as well as across the state rose again in 2015. This was, at least in part due to state legislative changes enacted in 2014 that explicitly protects victims of stalking conduct and included stalking as a reason for requesting a protection order. After leveling off at the end of the decade, the rate of domestic violence offenses in the two counties took a slight, not unexpected, bump in 2020 due to the global pandemic (COVID). The local domestic violence rate fell slightly in 2021 and remained relatively unchanged in 2022.  

The combined counties have fewer domestic violence offenses per 1,000 residents than the state average. And compared to other counties on the eastern side of the state, Chelan & Douglas counties combined typically have fewer incidents per 1,000 residents. Benton & Franklin Counties are also below the state average, whereas both Spokane & Yakima Counties have much higher rates than the state average. 

Turning to the counties separately, we see that in Chelan County, the rate of domestic violence incidents has remained primarily steady since 2015, albeit now slightly above the combined county rate (7.3 vs. 7.0 per 1,000 residents). In Douglas County, the current rate of domestic violence offenses is lower than the combined county average at 6.4 vs. 7.0 offenses per 1,000 residents.  However, unlike Chelan, which saw a drop in 2022, the number of total domestic violence offenses and  rate increased in 2022. But even so, the rate is still well below the state average of 8.8 offenses per 1,000 residents. 

The one area of concern is the City of Wenatchee. In 2022, its rate of domestic violence offenses was over 10 per 1,000 residents, well above the state average of 8.8. In contrast, East Wenatchee’s rate of 6.7 offenses per 1,000 residents is below the state average. 

What can be done to move the needle? 

Domestic violence is a complicated societal issue and a single metric such as the rate of domestic violence offenses certainly does not tell the whole story. For example, an observed uptick in the rate may not be due to increased violence per se, but rather be reflective of family members becoming more willing and able to report incidents that previously went unreported. 

Also, as mentioned previously, the uptick in offenses in 2014-15 can be in part explained by state law being amended to include protections from stalking conduct. From a data perspective, there is no way to go back and observe incidents of stalking by family members or intimate / domestic partners that existed prior to 2014.  

While these legislative actions have been directed at increasing the likelihood of reporting, some newer state legislative actions starting in 2021 have been directed at protecting individuals through prevention. By modernizing and improving laws concerning civil protection orders, some offenses might be prevented from occurring in the first place.  

Ultimately, by enjoying continued  monitoring and enforcement of laws pertaining to domestic violence, and continued tracking of the data, healthier families will be able to participate in labor markets, take advantage of educational opportunities, and more fully engage in their communities.