MAMARONECK, N.Y. – There were 276 domestic violence incidents reported to the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department in 2010. That was up 42 from 2008. The Town of Mamaroneck Police Department had 54 cases reported, up from 38, and the Village of Larchmont, 14, down from 22.
"We are a busy department compared to some other jurisdictions," said Detective Sandra DiRuzza of the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department. "Thankfully, most of our cases are not violent; they usually involve verbal arguments or harassment. Of course there are occasions where there may be violence or we have to make an arrest."
Domestic violence isn't confined to one area of Westchester County. It happens in every town.
Figures from the Westchester County Office for Women show domestic incidents were reported in cities like Mount Vernon and sleepy towns like North Salem. Mount Vernon, per capita, had the highest number of reported cases, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
Nancy Levin, chief development officer at My Sister's Place, says many residents living in Westchester don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public health issue,” she said.
Approximately one in five women across the nation have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel. Safsel is director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in the news in recent years.
Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after she was choked to death. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Lewisboro residents were shocked at the news that Sam Friedlander, 50, bludgeoned his wife, Amy, before shooting his two young children and committing suicide at their home in October 2011.
Safsel said many cases go unreported.
Places such as Hope's Door and My Sister's Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. Hope's Door provides a 24-hour, confidential emergency hotline at 888-438-8700. They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, something that's especially important because a growing number of young women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin notes it's an issue across the board.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”
DiRuzza is the Domestic Violence Officer at the Village of Mamaroneck department. "My role is to follow up on cases and provide resources to the victims," she said.
There are few departments in Westchster that have dedicated domestic violence units, DiRiuzza said. "All we can do is offer the information about help and resources, but even that is something extra that's nice to be able to do."