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While efforts commendable, more needs done

Community members recently gathered to “recognize and remember those who have lost their lives” and “provide a sense of hope and support for those who may be suffering in silence,” as YWCA Wise Options Director Amber Morningstar put it.

It was an important gathering to call attention to an important issue — domestic violence.

Lycoming County District Attorney Ryan Gardner addressed some of the aspects of domestic violence. He noted domestic violence is often unreported and discussed the horrifying pressures on victims’ that discourage reporting. He noted that domestic violence traumatizes families irrespective of race, sexual orientation and socio-economic status or income level. Gardner shared sobering statistics about the number of deaths in 2020 stemming from domestic violence, and the increase in requests for protection-from-abuse orders here in Lycoming County.

Gardner also shared some positive steps being take to alleviate the problem. We appreciate that his office has hired two additional staff members dedicated to coordinating victims’ services, to help victims feel as comfortable as they can during legal proceedings and educating victims about other community resources, such as Wise Options.

He also discussed changes in the law at the state level to empower victims to offer statements when abusers have parole hearings, to treat strangulation in the context of domestic violence as a felony and to prevent testifying victims from being questioned about irrelevant sexual history, a tactic used to harass and bully victims.

“Without a doubt, significant strides have been made regarding the recognition of victims’ rights and the number of resources made available to victims of domestic violence,” Gardner told the vigil.

We hope that strides continue to be made. We hope our legislature considers tougher sentencing guidelines, increases in funding for grants to police departments and county district attorneys offices to defray the cost of investigating and prosecuting abusers. We are confident that our elected lawmakers and our district attorney will continue to treat these crimes with the seriousness they deserve.

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