LUMBERTON — Robeson County ranked fourth in North Carolina in the number of deaths related to domestic violence during 2012, according to a report by the state Department of Justice.
According to the department’s 2012 Report on Domestic Violence Homicides, Robeson County reported five deaths related to domestic violence. The three counties with a higher number of domestic violence deaths each had a much larger population than does Robeson County.
Wake County, the second-largest county by population in North Carolina, ranked first with 11 murders; Mecklenburg County, the largest county by population, was second with eight murders; and Guilford County ranked third with six murders.
The report said that 122 North Carolinians died from domestic violence during 2012, 16 more than the previous year. There were 78 female victims and 44 male victims, according to the report, but in Robeson County three of the five victims were male.
“I have a great concern about this increase,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “It’s clear that North Carolina must do more to stop domestic abuse before it turns deadly.”
The report said that seven out of the 122 victims had taken out protective orders against their killers. Three of the protective orders were in effect when the victims were murdered. None of the offenders in those cases had domestic violence charges when the crime occurred.
Dr. Sid Housseini, psychiatric medical director for Southeastern Health, said that domestic violence tends to escalate.
“Some folks for whatever reason have difficulty to process reasoning in a calm manner,” Housseini said. “They first engage in verbal abuse or threats when they cannot get their point across, and resort to beating and eventually the use of weapons.”
Housseini said people turn violent for a range of reasons.
“It can be a combination of genetic and environmental factors,” he said. “Think of genetics as a preloaded gun, and environment as somebody who pushes the trigger. A person’s environment can trigger domestic violence.”
Housseini said victims often believe there is no escape from a violent relationship.
“Victims become gradually conditioned and are helpless and scared that they cannot get out of this situation,” he said.
Housseini said society should have “zero tolerance” for domestic violence. He said people trapped in cycles of abuse need to know help is available.
“This is not normal,” he said. “Therapy and medication, if needed, is available and they don’t have to succumb to that environment all the time.”
Emily Locklear, director of the Southeastern Family Violence Center in Lumberton, said that the center offers refuge to victims of domestic violence.
“We are here 24 hours, seven days a week,” Locklear said. “We can offer shelter or a referral to the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.”
Locklear said that the nonprofit has helped 95 adults and 71 children escape abusive situations during 2012.
“We ensure that victims are not in contact with their aggressors,” she said, “but we keep them as close to their daily routine as possible.”
The center helps victims with transitional housing, according to Locklear.
According to the report, obtaining restraining orders from courts and enrolling in the Address Confidentiality Program from the state’s Department of Justice can help victims escape domestic violence. There are 918 participants and their dependants currently enrolled in the program, which started in 2003.