SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers has the second- lowest incidence of reported domestic violence in Westchester, according to figures compiled by the County Office for Women.
The most recently available information, compiled from 2010 statistics, shows 29 reported cases in Somers. With a population of 18,346, that makes Somers the second lowest per capita in the county after North Salem. Officials say the statistics don't take into account the rape cases that go unreported.
Reports of domestic violence in Somers come to the New York State Police through calls to 911. “It’s not any worse here in Somers than anywhere else,” said State Police Investigator Armando Barquin of the Somers barracks. Somers Police Chief Michael Driscoll was not available for comment.
“We handle a limited number of cases,” said Sgt. Andrew Brown of the North Salem Police Department. “Although there aren’t a lot of reports, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of incidents. Around here, houses are far apart, so it’s easy for things to stay behind closed doors. It often happens that incidents occur five or six times before someone finally calls the police.”
Figures from the county show that the highest number of domestic incidents are reported in the cities. Mount Vernon had the highest number per capita, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan. Buchanan is the lone small village on that list, with 2,189 residents.
Nancy Levin, chief development officer at My Sister's Place, says many Westchester residents do not 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 has been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in her lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel, the director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in recent years. Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after reportedly being choked by her husband, Christopher Howson. He is facing murder charges.
Groups 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 abusive relationships, which a growing number of women find themselves in, Safsel said.
“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.”
“Many factors enter into it,” said Brown. “Cultural, economic – in an area like North Salem, most women are independent, so they can take their credit card and go to a hotel.”
The police cannot speculate on what goes on behind the scenes, said Brown. “As law enforcement officers, we have to take things at face value.”