PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Domestic violence is down in Bay County, but it’s still a major concern for law enforcement and families.
The state of Florida saw a high number of homicides caused by domestic violence prior to 2012.
Corporal Amy Burnette said that’s when the domestic violence division was created at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.
“The reason why we do offender accountability is to prevent homicides from happening, so we see the cycle of domestic violence, we see the escalation of the violence in the family household,” Cpl. Burnette said. “What we try to do is make sure that these offenders are held accountable, and we can stop that cycle of domestic violence.”
She also said it’s important for the community to learn the signs of domestic and dating violence.
Some characteristics to look for include the abuser isolating the victim from their friends and family, cutting off communication and other controlling behaviors.
“Domestic violence awareness is very key, because it happens behind closed doors,” Cpl. Burnette explained. “It’s important to look for signs of domestic violence, of household violence so you can potentially help somebody get out of that situation, and you yourself could actually help stop a homicide.”
The signs of children trapped in domestic abusive households include aggressive behavior and acting out both sexually and physically.
Cpl. Burnette said if you see or suspect the violence happening, do not ignore it.
“One of the biggest things that we see time and time again when speaking with witnesses or neighbors is that domestic violence may be happening, but they feel like it’s not their business because that’s family business,” Cpl. Burnette said. “Well… if somebody dies, then that is your business. So if you see something, say something.”
Cpl. Burnette said the numbers of domestic violence arrests in Bay County is starting to decrease, contrary to national statistics.
She attributes it to the division’s hard work and the awareness within the community.
“I know a lot of people are going through tough times right now, between Hurricane Michael and COVID-19,” Cpl. Burnette said. “There’s a lot of resources and availabilities out there to prevent physical violence.”