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123 Domestic Violence Victims Killed Last Year In PA Honored During Capitol Ceremony

Ed Mahon
PA Post
Domestic violence advocates hold signs with the names of victims during a ceremony at the state Capitol on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Advocates are trying to bring greater attention to domestic violence  — and ways to prevent it. 

At a Capitol ceremony on Monday, government leaders, lawmakers and advocates honored 123 victims who were killed last year.

Nearly 60 percent of the victims died by gunfire. Nearly 70 percent were female. And nearly 70 percent were killed by a current or former intimate partner.

“These grim statistics indicate that we still have much more work to do,” Susan Higginbotham, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said during a Capitol ceremony.

Over the most recent 10-year period, the annual number of domestic violence victim deaths in Pennsylvania reached a high of 135 in 2010, according to data collected by the coalition.

The lowest number of domestic violence deaths occurred in 2014 and 2016, when there were 105 deaths each of those years.

Credit Ed Mahon / PA Post
PA Post
Gisele Fetterman, the Second Lady of Pennsylvania, speaks during a domestic violence awareness ceremony at the state Capitol on Oct. 21, 2019.

Higginbotham’s group is working on legislation that would increase the availability of safe and affordable housing for victims — although the proposal has not been introduced yet in the legislature.

The group is also looking to increase state funding for domestic violence services.

In this year’s budget, lawmakers approved a 10 percent increase — raising the budget line item from nearly $17.4 million to nearly $19.1 million.

During Monday’s ceremony, Second Lady Gisele Fetterman said giving victims more options for affordable housing, education and financial security will make it easier for them to escape dangerous situations.

She described how a domestic violence victim reached out to her about eight years ago, when Fetterman’s husband was the mayor of Braddock in Allegheny County.

“I arrived to a very scared, very bruised young woman and her two children,” Fetterman said. “And I quickly, as I ushered her through this world, I landed in the lap of advocates … who were so welcoming, so supportive, and were really able to become the bridge that allowed her to come through on the other side, which she did.”

PA Post is a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization that connects Pennsylvanians with accountability and deep-dive reporting. For more stories from PA Post, visit