WISE, a non-profit organization that offers services to individuals who have experienced domestic violence and adult sexual assault, provides resources and services to residents of Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties. Aguilar said they have been getting calls from areas outside of these primary counties, such as Grand Rapids. Other counties will refer individuals to WISE.
“Right now, we see a lot of younger women,” said Aguilar in reference to the increase in calls. She said they see single moms, young women who are pregnant, and teens/young adults who dealing with dating violence. She said the age group that has increased the most among women is 18–26.
“That age group is normally our highest group,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar said WISE also gets calls from Ferris students involving domestic violence and assault. Ferris State University Department of Public Safety (DPS) handles the dispatch calls during such disputes. Aguilar said, “It seems like we have had more identified on campus calls.”
She noted that sexual assaults are underreported and the primary calls they receive are in relation to domestic violence.
“The thing is, a lot of women will tell you they would rather be hit than deal with that verbal and emotional abuse,” said Aguilar.
According to the Michigan Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 25 percent of women who were surveyed and 7.6 percent of men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime. In addition, such estimates indicate approximately 1.5 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually.
Ferris Chief of Police Marty Bledsoe said domestic assault numbers on campus are somewhere in figures of half to three quarters.
He said the best guess to say on the numbers is 50 to 75 percent of domestic occurrences. Bledsoe added, “There has been a real effort across the university and overall to get people to report domestics, not just to sit on the information.”
“We’re encouraging people in a domestic situation to report any problems they’re having,” said Bledsoe. He also said people are asked to be “bolder about reporting them.”
Individuals who find themselves in a situation where domestic violence and assault is involved can call WISE and start a safety plan, said Aguilar. She said they will make sure they are safe and have somewhere to go. If it’s a plan to escape, they make sure there is somebody the person can check in with and who knows where his/her whereabouts are.
Aguilar said there are many excuses for domestic violence episodes and that it’s a “power and control” issue. She said the increase can’t be blamed on anything except for people who have these issues and want power and control.
“You’re going to find stats that say it’s the economy and alcohol, but it’s excuses,” said Aguilar. Otherwise, the rise “really can’t be explained,” Aguilar added. n