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Domestic violence offenses and homicides have not followed the same downward trend, according to a report from the Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities released last fall by Gov. In 75 percent of the homicide cases, the victim had ended the relationship or told her abuser she intended to end it shortly before she was murdered.The report observed that while domestic violence can occur in all intimate relationships, crime statistics show that it is overwhelmingly a problem of violence perpetrated by men against women.IT is the details that bring home the reality of domestic violence.For instance, asked how many beds will be available at a shelter for battered women that opened in Mamaroneck last week, Charlotte Watson, director, said simply, '' Fourteen beds -- 18, if you count the cribs.'' Not only does the image of the tiniest shelter resident put a human face on the problem but another feature of the new home is also significant: the shelter is the first in the county to be accessible to the disabled, a fact with special relevance to those who might stay there.'' There hasn't been a shelter for a woman who was physically impaired to the point where she had to rely on crutches or a wheelchair, and many women are being abused to the point that they are disabled,'' Ms. While New Yorkers may take comfort in knowing that violent crime has decreased steadily in the state since 1991, those who work with victims of domestic violence know there is little reason to celebrate. In 70 percent of the murder cases reviewed by the commission, which was headed by District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, the offender had a history of physical abuse of the victim.'' We want them to identify it and have the appropriate channels to make the right referrals.'' Oxford plans to monitor the success of the program, with an eye toward expanding it to its entire membership. Watson said My Sister's Place will also be working with the County Medical Society and the County Health Department to find ways in which the medical community can become more directly involved.While the criminal justice system has for some time been focused on the problem of domestic violence, it is only recently that the issue is being approached as a public health problem, one that sends thousands of women to hospital emergency rooms each year. Watson cautioned that one had to be cautious with this approach.'' Domestic violence is not a medical problem; it has a medical impact,'' she said.The most visible progress is the opening of two new shelters for battered women.The shelter in Mamaroneck is a branch of My Sister's Place, which opened the county's first shelter for battered women in Yonkers nearly 20 years ago.
New legal services programs to help women navigate their way through the criminal justice system have been set up by both shelters.In addition, the Northern Westchester Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence recently moved to larger quarters, which can house 16 women.Together, the two shelters have nearly doubled the number of beds and cribs for battered women and their children over the last year.By joining forces, through one toll-free number of (888) 997-1010, a caller can get information about support groups, counseling, children's services, legal advocacy and shelter and emergency services.The information is provided in English and Spanish.'' Historically, agencies in Westchester have certainly been cooperative,'' Dr. '' But this brings a new integration and provides a centralized, one-stop single point of entry into the system.'' Addressing the problem from another angle, experts in domestic violence are working with medical professionals to improve detection and treatment. Watson of My Sister's Place and other advocates are working with Oxford Health Plans, the managed-care company, to train doctors to identify patterns of abuse and refer victims to resources and programs.