The new application, designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices, would be a "first line of defense," helping users easily recognize signs of domestic violence in friends and family and get help for them, Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said at the premiere of Merchant's documentary "Shelter: A Concert Film to Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence."
The Hudson Valley county north of New York City already has a suicide awareness and prevention mobile app.
The film screened in Kingston Friday documents a June 2013 concert and testimony-discussion at Bard College in nearby Annandale-on-Hudson.
Singer-songwriter Merchant, an Ulster County resident, and other local musicians performed at that event to raise awareness of domestic violence, which the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says one in every four women in the United States experiences.
The Bard event also included state and local domestic violence advocates, criminal prosecutors and violence survivors.
The Kingston screening was followed by a discussion by Merchant, state lawmakers and officials of Ulster and neighboring Dutchess County. County officials included prosecutors focusing on domestic violence crimes, sexual offenses and elder abuse.
"Domestic violence has become my obsession in the last year," Merchant told the Daily Freeman of Kingston before the screening.
It's "a silent crisis," she said.
Merchant, who has also supported social justice, children's rights and environmental causes, was the lead singer and primary lyricist for the alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs before starting her solo career in 1993.
The screening and discussion, which Merchant said were the first of planned annual domestic violence forums, were held in conjunction with the global One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women.
An estimated 1.3 million women in the United States are assaulted by an intimate partner each year, CDC statistics indicate.
Nearly a third of female homicide victims cited in police records are killed by an intimate partner, FBI statistics cited by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence show.
Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes, the Justice Department says. Only 25 percent of physical assaults, 20 percent of rapes and 50 percent of stalkings against women by intimate partners are reported to police, the CDC says.
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