Law enforcement officers in New Jersey responded to nearly 61,700 domestic violence incidents in 2015, according to updated figures from the State Police.

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The tally represents a 1 percent decrease from 2014, but the number of domestic violence homicides jumped 16 percent — 49 murders in 2015, the highest recorded since 2008.

Both assaults and harassment accounted for 43 percent of the offenses reported, the Domestic Violence in New Jersey report states.

The latest numbers offer just a glimpse into the problem, according to Sarah McMahon, associate director of the Rutgers School of Social Work's Center on Violence Against Women and Children.

"We know at this point that domestic violence is considerably under-reported," McMahon told New Jersey 101.5.

McMahon noted individuals could fear retaliation if they get cops involved. Or they could feel ashamed of being in such a position, among other reasons.

The victim was female in 74 percent of all incidents in 2015, the report finds. Arrests were made in 31 percent of the incidents, and alcohol and/or drugs were involved in a quarter of the offenses reported.

2015 Domestic Violence Offenses/Arrests by County

  • Atlantic: 4,671 offenses, 788 arrests
  • Bergen: 3,636 offenses, 1,192 arrests
  • Burlington: 3,798 offenses, 1,415 arrests
  • Camden: 5,663 offenses, 2,013 arrests
  • Cape May: 1,293 offenses, 395 arrests
  • Cumberland: 2,589 offenses, 755 arrests
  • Essex: 6,075 offenses, 1,850 arrests
  • Gloucester: 1,887 offenses, 645 arrests
  • Hudson: 3,327 offenses, 946 arrests
  • Hunterdon: 487 offenses, 136 arrests
  • Mercer: 2,367 offenses, 901 arrests
  • Middlesex: 4,482 offenses, 1,505 arrests
  • Monmouth: 3,933 offenses, 1,440 arrests
  • Morris: 1,867 offenses, 595 arrests
  • Ocean: 4,340 offenses, 1,251 arrests
  • Passaic: 3,248 offenses, 1,012 arrests
  • Salem: 750 offenses, 294 arrests
  • Somerset: 2,064 offenses, 550 arrests
  • Sussex: 1,198 offenses, 308 arrests
  • Union: 2,615 offenses, 967 arrests
  • Warren: 1,369 offenses, 254 arrests

"Domestic violence or dating violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors and typically they escalate over time," McMahon said. "The person who is abusive enacts these behaviors in a way that attempts to maintain control over another individual."

In the beginning stages of a relationship, McMahon said, these controlling behaviors could be comprised of jealousy-fueled comments, manipulation and trying to control who one can/can't hang out with.

"Unfortunately, especially for adolescents, a lot of times this sort of jealous behavior can be seen as something that's supposed to be flattering; that means the person cares about you," she said. "But when it's a pattern and the person is really attempting to control your behavior, then that's not a sign of a healthy relationship."

Over time, she said, the abusive or controlling behavior can become sexual or physical in nature. By then, the person being victimized, many times, sticks with the relationship, believing the perpetrator wants to and can change.

"There is some research showing that if your parents were in an abusive relationship and you witnessed that, you may be more likely to become abusive yourself, but that's not always the case," McMahon said.

She said there's no one predictor, but a whole list of factors that come together to make someone prone to being abusive in a relationship.

McMahon also serves as chair of the state's Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board. Since 2001, the board has released seven reports aimed at improving responses to domestic violence.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.