NAU’s domestic violence expert is in demand during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with speaking engagements throughout the United States and Canada. Neil Websdale said October is an important time of year to raise public awareness about domestic violence issues, something he works on throughout the year.
Websdale is director of NAU’s Family Violence Institute and a longtime professor of criminology and criminal justice. He has written numerous books about domestic violence and serves as director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Domestic violence is more than a problem in the home, it is a matter of national security, Websdale said. “If you look at countries that pose the threat of terrorism to the U.S and other western powers, those nations often have very rigid gender stereotyping along with some pretty serious offenses against women,” he said. These abuses, including domestic violence, domestic homicide and honor killings, create a substantial threat internationally, Websdale added.
Domestically, 1.5 million people experience intimate partner violence each year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report estimates the cost of domestic violence at 5.8 billion each year.
The Violence Policy Center’s Domestic Violence rankings list Arizona as fifth in the nation, with 60 murders of women by men in 2011, the most recent statistics available.
However, the rate of domestic violence homicides has been declining during the past two decades. “The biggest reductions are among African American males who are killed with far less frequency now than they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago in this country,” Websdale said. An increase in shelter services for black women and incarceration of domestic violence offenders are the suspected causes for the reduction.
At Northern Arizona University, Websdale and his staff work on policy issues and provide technical support to agencies in 45 states as part of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative. While Websdale no longer teaches in the classroom, he does regular public presentations and he works closely with students who intern at NAU’s Family Violence Institute.
The institute is largely funded by federal and state grants, as well as contract work with individual states.