A Closer Look at Experiences of Violence in Spokane County; Some Groups Disproportionally Affected
New Confronting Violence report by Spokane Regional Health District examines factors that contribute to, or protect people from, violence in community; offers something everyone can do toward prevention
SPOKANE, Wash. – Nearly half of Spokane’s youth experienced at least one violence-related incident in the past year, according to findings released today by Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD)—and those numbers only tell part of the story of community violence in Spokane County.
Community violence includes: homicide and suicide, domestic and sexual violence, elder abuse, child abuse and neglect, and youth violence. Over 50,000 incidents of child abuse were verified in the last decade in the county. For the most recent year of data available there were over 4,000 domestic violence offenses.
For certain groups in Spokane, how they experienced this violence and associated risk factors was disproportionate - black and Hispanic students were more likely than whites to report being arrested; Native American/Alaska Native students were more likely than whites to have been bullied; and females were more likely than males to experience depression, the report says.
“This landmark report paints a clear picture of the numerous and substantial impacts that violence has on human health and well-being in our community,” said SRHD Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz. “Our hope is that the information presented will serve as a vital tool to guide collaborative efforts among partners across Spokane County, and shape future funding and program initiatives to confront violence.”
Confronting Violence is one of SRHD’s latest public health reports, generated by researchers in its Data Center program, designed to better describe and monitor the magnitude of 37 separate measures of violence in Spokane County. The measures range from physical abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence, to gang membership, homicide and suicide. It is a comprehensive report providing estimates of violence in the community, as well as risk and protective factors related to violence locally. Critical impacts of violence, service gaps and strategies to confront violence are also presented.
Key indicators and impacts of violence as explored in the report include:
- Nearly one in five Spokane County adolescents reported they seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year.
- One-third of Spokane County adolescents experienced depression in the last year.
- One-quarter of Spokane County adolescents reported being in a fight in the last year.
- Students who reported abuse history were 2.2 times more likely to be failing in school and were 2.7 times more likely to report a low quality of life.
- Academic failure significantly increased as the number of experiences of violence increased—meaning that violence is independently associated with poor academic outcomes.
Eye on inequity
Experiences of violence in Spokane County are unfairly distributed, resulting in disparate risks, exposures, and outcomes by race and ethnicity, neighborhood, and other factors.
Children of color have more risk factors and fewer protective factors than white children, perpetuating an ongoing cycle of racial bias and trauma across generations. For example, the data show:
- Fighting – American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic and ‘other’ races were more likely than white students to have been in a fight.
- Depression - American Indian/Alaska Native and ‘other’ races were more likely than white students to have experienced depression.
- Bullying - compared to white students, American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely to have been bullied.
- Safety at school - compared to white students, black, Native American/Alaska Native, and Hispanic students were more likely to report not feeling safe at school.
Furthermore, there is almost a 90-fold difference between the neighborhood with the highest rate of violent crime (Riverside, i.e., downtown Spokane) compared to the neighborhood with the lowest rate (Northwest). Like income, education, and other social determinants of health and well-being, experiences of violence are unfairly distributed.
Poor health outcomes were also often carried into adulthood for adults exposed to trauma during childhood or adolescence. In Spokane County, adults who experienced three or more traumatic or stressful events were:
- 2.1 times more likely to have mental health problems and 3.3 times as likely to have a serious mental illness.
- 1.4 times more likely to have physical activity limitations.
- 1.3 times as likely to have fair to poor overall health.
- 3.4 times more likely to be unable to work.
- 1.5 times as likely to be a smoker.
- 2.3 times as likely to have poor quality of life.
With the recent Freeman High School shooting in the Spokane area, it is more important than ever for the community to take action on preventing violence.
“Violence is still very present in our community. We need to get at the root of what is causing youth to become violent,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “We need to look inward at what we have done to allow this to happen in our society. How can we address root causes of intergenerational violence and incarceration, such as poverty, and stop these issues from continuing in the next generation?”
Based on report findings, stakeholders should consider where alignment and partnership with other organizations can be furthered to confront and eliminate violence in Spokane County. Combating violence takes the collective efforts of stakeholders that provide services on many different levels, from working directly with victims to changing policies, and shifting cultural views. The report also presents opportunities for media, employers, schools, individuals and others to tackle violence—there is something that everyone can do to prevent violence.
A desired outcome of this report is to catalyze action. The health district is working to convene anti-violence advocates and professionals in the community and help support data-driven and focused improvements. The health district is committed to:
- Providing data evaluation support for stakeholders who address violence, to help guide effective interventions and establish shared systems for measuring progress.
- Supporting children and marginalized individuals through efforts to build individual and community resilience and combat inequities.
- Convening the community and specifically focusing on and growing prevention efforts and capacity to support the health and well-being of the community’s children.
The health district is asking each of the many organizations and dedicated people in this community to identify how their own efforts can be renewed, re-energized, and refocused to prevent violence. The report, as well as its Executive Summary, and more information on next steps, can be found at www.srhd.org. SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.