Domestic violence top cause of homicides in affluent Fairfax Co. in 2009

Hank Silverberg,

FAIRFAX, Va. – Victims of domestic violence often hide their abuse from family, friends and the police. But it’s the leading cause of homicides in affluent Fairfax County, according to a new report released this week.

Eight of the 14 homicides in Fairfax County in 2009 stemmed from a family dispute and most of the victims were women.

A 2012 review by a special committee the Board of Supervisors established found that only three of the victims ever contacted police and only one had a protective order prior to dying. The Fairfax County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team reviewed only 2009 homicides.

Delegate Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, who has worked on women’s issues in the Virginia General Assembly, says domestic violence remains in the shadows for many Virginians.

Kory says it’s difficult for victims to get court orders and keep the that information from the abusing spouses they fear.

She says something must be done to make it easier for women to obtain protective orders.

“We keep getting stuck on other issues that are a little more inflammatory instead of looking at really what is happening to women,” Kory says.

The General Assembly has battled over contraception and abortion in recent sessions.

The Fairfax County review of domestic violence-related homicides also found the following:

  • 63 percent of the domestic violence deaths involved guns;
  • 38 percent involved stalking prior to the homicide;
  • 25 percent of the homicide victims also were victims of domestic violence in previous relationships;
  • 75 percent of the perpetrators were men;
  • 40 was the average age of the victims;
  • 45 was the average age of the offenders;
  • 50 percent of the homicide victims expressed beliefs their partners had the capability to kill them;
  • 50 percent of the offenders threatened to kill the victims before the homicides;
  • None of the victims sought help from domestic violence advocacy services.

Fairfax is among the nation’s richest counties with a median household income of $105,409 in 2011.

In the county’s most recent homicide, a Reston woman was found dead inside her burning home. Her husband was found dead two days later of an apparent suicide in Texas.

Four of the 2009 homicides were accompanied by the offender’s own suicide, according to the report.

The committee recommends better training for social service providers who interact with victims, more education and community outreach, and better tools to assess high-risk domestic violence and stalking cases.

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