COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new report reveals a concerning number of domestic violence fatalities in Ohio over the past year.
The Ohio Domestic Violence Network’s annual report shows 112 Ohio residents lost their lives due to domestic violence in the past 12 months. This marks a slight decrease from the previous year’s spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, but numbers remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Gun Violence a Leading Factor in Deaths
According to the report, an alarming 91% of the fatalities involved a firearm. In nearly half of the cases (42%), the perpetrator died by suicide using a gun after committing murder.
“Gun violence as the manner of death made up 91% of victim fatalities, which was a slight increase this reporting period,” said Maria York, policy director for the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.
“This is a very troubling statistic that shows how easily domestic disputes can turn deadly when a firearm is involved.”
The network strives to provide services to survivors across Ohio through its 76 member programs, including 58 residential shelters.
Prior Criminal Justice Contact Common Among Offenders
The report also found over half of the offenders had prior contact with the criminal justice system before committing murder.
“This shows opportunities may exist to intervene with domestic violence offenders and potentially prevent future violence,” said York. “We need to closely examine the risk factors and warning signs that could help identify high-risk cases before they escalate to homicide.”
York explained the network advocates for improving systems and policies to ensure victims have support to escape dangerous situations.
Disturbing Rise in Children Killed
In a disturbing finding, the report shows 22 children and infants lost their lives to domestic violence over the past year. This marks the highest number of children killed since the organization began compiling data seven years ago.
Shockingly, 16 victims were under 10 years old, including six babies less than a year old.
“The most disturbing finding from our report was that 22 children and babies were killed, the most since our coalition began reporting seven years ago,” said York. “This is an unacceptable tragedy, and we all need to do more to protect vulnerable children caught in abusive environments.”
According to advocates, one issue is the lack of safe housing options that accept both domestic violence victims and their children. They recommend expanding emergency shelter capacity and transitional housing programs to keep families together.
Concerns Over Family Annihilations
Along with children killed, the report shows an alarming number of family annihilation cases where the perpetrator murders their spouse and children before dying by suicide.
“In several heartbreaking cases, we saw offenders wipe out nearly their entire family in one act of violence,” said York. “We as a society fail when a parent kills the very children they should nurture and protect.”
Advocates emphasize the need for community awareness to speak up when someone exhibits warning signs. They also recommend providing counseling services and conflict resolution training to at-risk families showing signs of escalating domestic abuse.
Male Victims Exceed Females for First Time
For the first time since tracking began, the number of male victims killed by domestic violence exceeded female victims this past year.
“Typically domestic homicide victims are disproportionately women, so the high number of male victims really stands out this year,” said York. “Regardless of gender, we must provide accessible support services for all victims in harm’s way.”
While reasons for the increase remain unclear, some experts suggest men may be less likely to seek help due to social stigmas. Advocates say outreach should make it clear that support services are for all genders.
Continued Need for Awareness and Action
Looking ahead, domestic violence groups say continued public awareness and preventative action is critical to reduce the tragedy of fatalities.
“While a downward trend in deaths is promising, the number of lives lost is still far too high,” said York. “Together, we must improve upon training, services, resources and policies that can identify warning signs early and support victims safely leaving dangerous situations.”
Advocates emphasize the need for community-based solutions and systematic changes to protect vulnerable Ohioans.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. Trained advocates offer confidential support 24/7.