JEFFERSON CITY - The Committee on domestic violence sat through a series of meetings on Wednesday at the State Capitol in an effort to prioritize the need to deal with an increasing amount of domestic violence in Missouri.
"We need to take a comprehensive view of the impact of domestic violence throughout the state," said Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, who co-chairs the committee.
Riback Wilson said that the current five-year plan which was scheduled to conclude in 2000 had not been implemented effectively. Wilson continued by saying that since violence breeds violence, this committee was named last month to begin tackling the issue, immediately.
Colleen Coble, executive director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence told the committee that while Missouri had come some way in attacking the problems of domestic violence, there was still work to be done.
"One in four American women will be battered at some point in their lives, according to research," Coble said. "Shelter services for such women however exist in less than half of the state."
Attorney General Jay Nixon said, "Violence in society indeed begins at home. We need changes to be monumental."
Nixon pointed out the need to educate and improve awareness at all levels of law enforcement beginning with the cop on the street to the judges in the courts. Progress, he said, has been made but more needs to be done.
"We need funding." Coble said. "However what we need at this stage the most is to get an assessment of where we are in Missouri in responding to domestic violence. That is what this committee is doing, gathering information from different government departments in relation to domestic violence."
Coble said that many cases of domestic violence are not reported for fear of further violence. "We need a system that offers safety, support and resources to such women. We need doctors and other figures of authority to be trained to conduct regular checks and offer referrals to proper resources," Coble said.
Children are often the victims of domestic violence too, Riback Wilson said. "The question is what can we as legislators of public policy do to protect the victims." The committee will reconvene for a final day of meetings today.