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‘There’s a life after that’

Survivors promote hope in domestic violence conversation

Editor’s note: This is the final chapter in a three-part series on domestic violence awareness.

Domestic violence affects everyone.

It’s a statement widely underestimated, according to many of those who have either survived domestic violence situations themselves or know someone who has.

Maureen Williams-Zelenak is the supervisor of Freeborn County’s Crime Victims Crisis Center and its children’s mental health unit, and has been a social worker for about 25 years. She said one of the societal practices keeping domestic violence stigmatized is people thinking it’s a private crime, and that it doesn’t affect everyone in every walk of life.

“Domestic abuse is real, and it occurs in all kinds of ways in our community,” she said. “I would say the biggest misconception is that they think it doesn’t affect anyone else.”

Williams-Zelenak has co-facilitated court-ordered men’s domestic abuse intervention programs for those convicted of fifth-degree domestic assault or higher. While the program is not still taking place in Freeborn County, Williams-Zelenak recalled having multiple repeat offenders coming through the program.

“We have this recidivism rate, which is why domestic violence, domestic abuse is an enhanceable crime,” she said. “Because we know that there’s a high recidivism rate — people do go back to those relationships — and yet we know the lethality keeps going up.”

Jeff Strom, a lieutenant with Albert Lea Police Department, said he, too, has dealt with repeat cases involving the same perpetrators and the same victims. He said there is a stigma that comes along with domestic violence, especially toward victims who have repeatedly been abused by a partner. 

“Sometimes people question ‘Well, why didn’t the victim just leave?’ It’s not that easy,” he said. “How easy is it to up and quit a job and go to a new job? You don’t like your job, how easy is it to quit that job? Well now you’ve got financial issues involved, you’ve got children involved, you’ve got family and friends involved — it’s not that easy for that victim to pick up and leave all of that and go somewhere else.”

Domestic violence and its affects on children who witness it are also frequently underestimated, according to Chris Davis, supervisor of Freeborn County Department of Human Services’ child protection and child welfare unit. So far this year, Davis said there have been 506 child maltreatment reports that have come through her agency. Of those reports, 113 were opened for investigation and 84 of those cases are currently ongoing — serving 156 children and 155 adults. Twenty-four percent of those open cases have current or past history of domestic violence, she said.

“Children are the eyes and the ears of the walls in the home, and they see things and they take things in very very differently than adults do,” she said. “Domestic violence can have a significant impact on children because they look to their caregivers for their safety and security, and when something traumatic happens in their home, that really can cause a lack of security and affect their development.”

Dottie Honsey is living proof that childhood trauma stays with a person, even into adulthood. Honsey, a volunteer coordinator and advocate with the Crime Victims Crisis Center, grew up seeing her father abuse her mother.

“I can remember all of those kinds of things, because when you experience trauma it stays with you sometimes. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and hearing yelling and screaming, fearful of what was going to happen,” she said. “(During school) I was afraid that maybe I’ll come home and my mom might be dead, because I could see that violence and I could see it escalate at times.”

Honsey left her childhood home when she 16, after taking some of the beatings herself when she’d try to intercede. She said her leaving seemed to be a wakeup call to her mom, who hadn’t realized how much the situation had affected her children.

“Many times, women that are in that situation don’t realize what’s happening to their kids or what’s happening to everybody else around them,” Honsey said.

For Kim Tiegs, an advocate with the Crime Victims Crisis Center, familial impact is something that needs to be noted more when dealing with domestic violence.

“You can’t predict how somebody’s going to treat you a year from the day you start a relationship with them, and by that time there might be children and there’s an investment and these little things start happening and it gets worse and worse. You can’t just walk out the door,” she said. “That’s probably one of my biggest frustrations, that there’s not a conversation about family-based violence in general.”

Systematic frustrations

Andrea Hall, a probation officer with Freeborn County court services whose caseload specializes in domestic violence, said she has a number of men come through her office attributing their violent history to anger management. She said she has asked them if they’ve ever assaulted a police officer, an employer, a probation officer or anyone else other than their significant other, and the answer is almost always no. She said when anger management classes are assigned to perpetrators of domestic violence, they’re largely ineffective. She said the 48 hours of domestic violence education that are assigned in Minnesota aren’t enough to break the cycle of violence, either, especially since there aren’t always courses available.

“That’s just 48 hours to change a lifetime of learned behavior,” she said.

Hall also said she believes that when marriage counseling is assigned to a couple in a domestic violence relationship, it’s a horrific practice for victims.

“You’re basically ordering a victim to go to counseling with somebody looking at it like it’s an equal situation, and it’s not,” she said.

Another common frustration for those watching domestic violence situations handled legally is that many cases are pled down to disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is not an enhanceable crime, whereas domestic assault is enhanceable. An enhanceable crime entails that charges may be increased based on past criminal convictions.

Assistant Freeborn County Attorney Paige Starkey said those kinds of charges get pled down when the prosecution feels there isn’t enough of a case to convict someone of domestic assault. She said this happens either due to a lack of evidence, or to a victim that won’t or can’t come forward. Getting a plea agreement using disorderly conduct will at least hold the perpetrator accountable to a probation officer to hold possible jail time over their heads, according to Starkey.

“I don’t know what we can do to help victims feel the desire to break out of an abusive relationship,” she said. “I have to be able to produce enough evidence that (perpetrators) are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and with an uncooperative victim that’s very difficult to do.”

Andrea Mauer, a social worker and advocate for the Crime Victims Crisis Center, said she herself has been frustrated with the system before, and said that frustration doesn’t help her advocate for survivors being revictimized by going through the legal process.

“Everyone’s frustrated by the system and everyone’s doing their part, but there has to be something that happens between the statutes, the prosecutorial approach and the plea bargains,” she said. “It’s very, very disparaging to everyone. I know one of the things people come in here for — thinking they will have personal justice as a result — a lot of the times it isn’t that and they have to find their justice in the fact that they prevailed as a person.”

Don’t give up

Something reiterated by those who advocate for domestic violence survivors is that victims — as well as their family and friends — should never give up. Victims need to keep reporting their perpetrators, and family and friends of victims need to stand by them. All too often, victims are cut off by loved ones due to the frustration of victims going back to their abusive partners, being trapped in a cycle of violence.

“That’s the worst thing you can do. Yes, you’re frustrated; yes, you’re angry; yes, they’re not doing what you want them to do, but what they need is one person besides him to always be there,” Hall said. “Because now, if you cut them off, you have just cemented what he’s told her.

“You walk away from them, and he won,” she said. “Don’t give up on them. They need you to be in their corner regardless of how frustrated you are.”

Mauer said lethality is typically highest when a victim attempts to separate from an abusive partner, making it even more difficult for some to get out of a domestic violence situation. She said victims need to be aware of the warning signs of escalating violence, and need to not discount or downgrade what is being done to them. Saying “choked” instead of “strangled” is an example of a victim generalizing or minimizing what has been done to them.

“With strangulation, he’s putting you on notice that he can kill you or not. He’s letting you know he’s capable of murdering you,” she said. “Never, never be afraid to call the police for help.”

Strom said when people take out orders for protection against their perpetrators, they don’t always understand that OFPs aren’t an end-all to the situation.

“You can get orders for protection, but in the end it’s only a piece of paper,” he said. “You have to be cognizant. The order gives us — law enforcement — something to work with, though.”

He echoed the sentiment of loved ones not giving up on those they care about who haven’t yet managed to get out of an unhealthy relationship.

“Understand what’s going on without judging or criticizing them,” he said. “Understand why the person’s there; how you can help that person and empower that person to feel like they can leave and everything will be OK, and that they don’t have to fear for their safety or someone else’s safety.”

Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said it’s important for potential witnesses to be aware of what’s going on around them, as well, and need to realize that they can keep a domestic violence situation from turning deadly. He reminded potential witnesses that if they so choose, they can always remain anonymous when reporting domestic violence.

“There’s been plenty of times in the past where someone will witness to one degree or another — either they see it happening, they hear it happening … but they don’t do anything. Call us,” he said. “At the very least, we’ll come and stop the screaming — if that’s all it is, is them yelling at each other. But they could also save someone’s life, literally.”

As a prosecutor, Starkey said there have been times where they’ve had victims retract their statements or say they made them up. She generally assumes this is out of fear, or from not being able to break out of the domestic violence cycle just yet. While she works with people who try to help victims work through that fear and be able to take the stand, Starkey herself questions the process at times.

“It’s hard because I can’t help but feel oftentimes that when we do this, we’re sort of injecting ourselves into someone’s life — into an adult person’s life — and we’re telling them what’s best for them,” she said. “And that doesn’t sit particularly well with me, especially when we’re telling women what’s best for them, because that feels very patriarchal, that feels very paternalistic.”

Starkey added that with the worry of not having someone believe them, there’s hesitance from some victims coming forward. That can sometimes be the case in trials, and she said she has had instances where she felt jurors made unfair assumptions about victims.

“I usually start by telling them that I believe them. I’ve told a lot of victims that, and every once in awhile I’ll see the relief wash over,” she said. “There are people that aren’t going to believe them, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. Because that’s probably a societal thing, that’s where we live and when we live.”

‘I don’t have to be a victim anymore’

After Diane Lenway moved out of the home she shared with her husband for the second and final time, she embarked on a long and arduous process to divorce him.

He did not make the process easy for her.

Lenway said he would come into her workplace, shouting at her and causing a scene. Her boss at the time was friends with him, and would call Lenway into his office after her husband would leave and would blame the work disturbances on her.

She was living with her parents at first, before getting an apartment of her own for her and her daughter. She said she was terrified to be by herself, that her husband would stalk her and show up at her home unannounced.

There was one time that he hid in the bushes, dressed as a burglar in a mask, and forced her into her home when she came home with her daughter one night. Not knowing who he was, Lenway was even more terrified and said she kept screaming at him to just let her put her baby to bed. He ended up taking off the mask, laughing. Lenway started yelling at him once she realized who he was, and he took her and threw her down the stairs, hurting her ankle enough that she couldn’t get up. The attorney representing her in the divorce was the one who drove Lenway to the emergency room.

Even though Lenway had a restraining order against her estranged husband at the time, when she reported the altercation to authorities they said there was nothing they could do since the two were still technically married. At a hearing for the restraining order violation, Lenway said her husband’s attorney actually stood up and said to the judge, “Your honor, if you were married to her you’d want to beat her, too.”

At times feeling suicidal, Lenway said she eventually joined a battered women’s support group and started seeing a psychiatrist. She said it was at that time she started functioning as her own person, and finding the right people to have in her life. She started to learn that she wasn’t to blame for the abuse she had endured.

“This isn’t about me, this isn’t something wrong with me,” she said. “What’s wrong with me is that I allowed it to happen; I allowed someone else to take all my power away to the point that I couldn’t even function as my own person.”

Lenway finally got the divorce finalized, though she said it took about four or five years for her ex-husband to stop showing up on her doorstep because of it. While their marriage was officially over, he still dragged her through a nasty custody battle, she said.

“He never really had her, never really wanted her,” Lenway said of her ex-husband’s relationship with their daughter. “It was all about getting at me.”

There was court-ordered visitation between him and their daughter, which was only supposed to be overnight. One of the overnight visits turned into three days, during which time Lenway couldn’t reach her ex-husband and didn’t know where he lived. She eventually got in touch with one of his friends, who told Lenway that her ex’s apartment had been raided for drugs and that he was in jail. The friend went to the apartment for Lenway, where he found her 3-year-old daughter hidden under a pile of clothes in the bathtub, where she had been alone for almost two days.

From that time until her daughter was about 8, Lenway said her ex-husband would talk to their daughter on the phone and describe in detail how he planned to kill himself. He would then instruct their daughter to tell Lenway it was all her fault after hanging up the phone.

Those kinds of incidences left her daughter with a lot of anxiety as a child, Lenway said. Her daughter was afraid of bathrooms and didn’t like the door being shut on her. When she heard or saw her dad she’d become terrified, worried he’d try to take her away from her mom again. Lenway’s ex battled for custody for quite some time, until social services caught up with him for not paying child support. Once that happened, Lenway said he called her and told her their daughter wasn’t worth it and that he wouldn’t pay anything.

“I wanted her to mean as much to him as she means to me. When I realized she was really just a weapon to him, it was really hard for me to accept,” Lenway said. “I wanted him to understand that she was worth it all on her own — without me, with me, it didn’t matter because she was so worth it.”

Lenway ended up remarrying in the middle of her custody battle with her ex-husband, which she thinks is part of what led her ex to fight for custody in the first place — knowing that he really didn’t have any control over Lenway anymore.

“It wasn’t that he had this deep love for me, it was that he had lost control of my life,” she said. “His life was so out of control in every way, and I was the one thing he had control of.”

Her second husband was very protective of her and her daughter from the start, Lenway said, and helped them through the custody nightmare. She eventually had two more children with her second husband, and together they built a much healthier life for their family of five.

“My husband’s amazing,” she said. “He adopted my daughter when she was 9 and probably would’ve done it sooner if it was allowed, and he’s the only dad my daughter’s ever known.”

Through the trauma and years of instability and pain, Lenway said it’s important to her that her children know what a healthy relationship is and how other people should be treated. Lenway’s son and daughter from her second marriage are 23 and 18, respectively. Her children each have a strong sense of self-worth, Lenway said, and are all very kind-hearted. Her daughter from her first marriage is now 32, happily married and has a baby of her own.

“She is the kind of person that I wish I had been at that time,” Lenway said. “I can look at her and know that situation will never happen to her.”

It’s important to Lenway that others currently in unhealthy relationships know that there’s a way out.

“One thing people need to know is there’s a life after that,” she said. “It has been a lifelong journey of accepting things the way that they are, trusting that things will be different or I can do different things, that I do have control over my own life.

“I am a victim, I was a victim,” she said. “But I don’t have to be a victim anymore.”

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‘I never stopped surviving’

On a night after they had gone out drinking together, Stephani Adams and her husband got into an argument that resulted in Adams running out of the house for her own safety. After she got out, her husband called the police, telling them Adams had assaulted him and was a danger to him and their children. Adams said he had punched himself multiple times to make it look like she had attacked him, and claimed all of the things Adams had knocked over to keep her husband from following her out the door had been thrown at him to attack him. Since Adams was more intoxicated than her husband was at the time, she said the police believed her husband. She also thought this was due in part to Rochester police not knowing the history of domestic abuse the couple had in Freeborn County.

Her husband then got an order for protection against Adams so that she couldn’t come near him, or come near their children.

“Through all the bad stuff he’s done to me; for all the sick, physical things he’s done to me — the knots that he’s put on my head, the scratches that he’s put on my face, he’s bit into my skin, he’s broken my nose, pulled my hair out, left bruises all over me — that was the worst I felt,” she said. “That was the most helpless I felt. And nobody believed me.”

Adams went to detox that night, but when she got out the next morning she realized she had nowhere to go. She tried going home, but her husband called the police on her so she had to leave. She called a friend of hers who paid for a hotel room for a night, and then the next day Adams went to stay with her sister back in Albert Lea. She said she was worried about her children at the time, not knowing if her husband would be able to take care of them — especially their 1-year-old daughter. Within two weeks of Adams being back in Albert Lea, she found out her husband had brought the children there to live with his parents. He then returned to Rochester to go to school and continue to use drugs, Adams said.

The court orders from Rochester transferred back to Freeborn County, so Adams had to stay clean and sober if she wanted to be able to earn her children back.

“I was so lost. I really didn’t believe that he deserved the kids, and I didn’t believe I did either,” she said. “Even though I really wanted my kids, I didn’t believe I deserved them.”

While Adams used drugs when she first moved back, she said she eventually started going to meetings, connecting with others trying to live sober, and got a sponsor. She got a job and started going to therapy, all the while garnering more and more hope that she would get her children back — that she’d make it up to them.

“I never stopped staying clean and I never stopped fighting and I never stopped surviving,” she said. “I got out and I took the chance on somebody that said ‘You can do this.’ I took their word for it.

“If I didn’t trust that, I would be dead — either from him killing me or my own drug abuse, because all of that was a spiral.”

Adams got her children back after about two years of them living with their paternal grandparents. In the meantime, Adams divorced her husband, as well. Her children still have his side of the family in their lives, which Adams said she’s grateful for, but her children haven’t seen their father in three years. She said she has made attempts to reach out to her children’s father, especially now that he’s living in the area again, but that it hasn’t happened yet. Adams said when she and her children have run into her ex-husband in public, he avoids them.

“I would love to work together with him, I really would. If he was healthy, I really would love to work together with him as a parent and share things with him and make choices with him, but he’s not around because he chooses not to be around,” she said. “He knows he’s missing out.”

Adams has been dating someone for the past few years, and she said he has been a positive father figure to her children, who are now 14 and 8. While she wishes their biological father was in her children’s lives, as well, Adams knows that’s up to her ex-husband.

“When you let the kids see for themselves, they figure it out. All I can do is be the best mom I can be and be there for them, and at the same time take care of me. Because if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of them,” she said. “I want to show my kids what a survivor looks like.”

The fact that she survived is what Adams feels is most important for her children, as well as others currently in domestic violence situations, to know.

“One thing I want to make clear for anyone out there struggling is that you don’t always have to be a victim for the rest of your life. I may be a victim of domestic abuse, but I’m not a victim anymore,” she said. “I don’t want that to be my story. I want it to be the fact that I got out of it and I survived and I didn’t die, that my kids get to live with their mom, that they don’t have to live with their mom in the grave because their dad took my life.”

Adams said it’s especially important that those watching someone they love struggle to leave an abusive relationship stand by them and support them, even if they’re not ready to leave yet. She said it’s important to offer them a way out, even if it’s just for a night, even if they go back.

“Don’t ever give up on them, don’t ever get mad that they went back,” she said. “Don’t ever give up on them, because it’s almost like a sickness within us, too. We’re almost just as addicted to this abusive relationship as our abuser.”

‘No matter what, I’m still moving forward’

Even though she had an order for protection against him, the father of Beth’s child still wouldn’t let her go. He was calling her hundreds of times per hour, and would threaten to post nude pictures of her around her college campus with her name and address on them in the hope she would be raped. She remembers being in a women’s studies class, learning about the power and control wheel of domestic violence as her phone continually went off with threatening messages from her ex.

“It was unbelievable to me that someone had already taken all of my experiences and studied them and researched them and put them into a power and control wheel,” she said. “It was an actual thing that I never knew about.”

Beth said she didn’t understand what the OFP was doing for her if those things still kept happening, even with her reporting every other day what her ex was doing to her and how he was violating it.

“I thought that if I reported a violation it actually meant something, but it doesn’t. The cops will take your report, but in my experience that was the end of it,” she said. “I learned — the really, really hard way — that you can’t just stop reporting and give up because nothing’s being done. I think that’s where a lot of people and a lot of victims, that’s the point where they start losing hope.”

Eventually Beth got in touch with a police sergeant, who called her ex-boyfriend and told him to cease any contact with her. He then referred her to a victims service center, which helped her build a case against her ex. Within a week her ex was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic assault. With domestic assault being an enhanceable offense and Beth’s ex-boyfriend having a criminal history from assaulting a previous girlfriend, he went to prison.

When he eventually got out on probation, he still didn’t let up in his pursuit of keeping control over Beth. She was pursuing felony charges against him, when her daughter was over at his grandparents house for a visit. While her daughter was gone, Beth got a text message from her ex playing a song, which she ignored. He then called her, resulting in her going off on him for violating both his probation and her OFP so soon after getting out of jail. He also sent a note home with their daughter, for her to give to Beth.

“I was mad because I really wanted him to get better, even after all that crap,” she said. “I was at that point where I just really wanted him to get better for (our daughter), because she deserved better.”

Considering herself a “veteran of navigating the justice system,” Beth knew she had the right people on her team to get her ex sent back to jail. She called the police to file the report, and then called his probation officer with the report number so they could pick him up right away.

Beth and her daughter were at her parents’ for the Fourth of July one summer, when her ex was back out of jail and on probation. He kept calling Beth saying he wanted to take their daughter, to which Beth either ignored or told him no. On one of the times she did answer, her ex told her to have her dad “pistol up” and that he was coming to get his daughter. He later showed up at the house in a rage, clearly coming off of a drinking bender, Beth said. Beth tried to get him to leave herself, but eventually it took her mom yelling at him and her dad staying outside with him to get him to leave.

“I remember being afraid for my dad,” Beth said. “I didn’t want to call the police at that moment because I knew if we did, he’d take off and they wouldn’t be able to find him.”

Her ex kept calling and texting her, threatening her that he’d be waiting for her when she went home later that night, that he wanted her dead so he could have their daughter.

“That was the moment I just knew,” she said.

Beth called the police, and when they said they couldn’t pull him out of his own home for an OFP violation, Beth told them he had a warrant out against him for escaping custody — he had been out on work release from jail and never went back. The police picked him up and he went back to jail that night.

The final breaking point came for Beth when her daughter was once again at her ex’s grandparents’ house for a visit. Being in jail at the time, her ex called their daughter and talked to her on the phone, telling her horrible things about her mother, trying to sever their bond as mother and daughter. Beth said she saw a change in her daughter almost immediately when she came home that night. She was angry with her mother and called her a liar.

“There was no way I was going to let him do that to her or to us, and after that the world got very dark for a little while, because just the thought of him harming our child that way really just pushed me over the edge,” Beth said. “I knew right then that there’s no hope of ever having a healthy relationship of co-parenting. None of that was ever going to be possible.”

Beth eventually made plans to move to Albert Lea while her ex was still in jail, and her decision was further cemented when his grandparents showed up at her apartment one night, saying he had sent them to make sure Beth still lived there.

“I just knew that if I didn’t do something it would never end,” she said.

Beth and her daughter moved to Albert Lea, and registered with the Safe at Home program, which keeps physical addresses confidential and lists a P.O. box as a person’s legal address.

When her ex eventually got out of jail, he tried to get custody of their daughter. Beth had to fight him in court on her own, not being able to afford her own legal counsel.

“I remember nights laying on my living room floor with my laptop just bawling, dragging myself back through hell to recount all of these stories,” she said. “To get them all on paper was so traumatizing.”

After her ex trying to drag out proceedings by either not showing up at times or showing up late, Beth eventually got the case thrown out by explaining her history with her perpetrator.

Her OFP eventually lapsed and she didn’t renew it, because at the time she thought things had seemed to calm down. Earlier this year, Beth got an email from her ex that suggested otherwise. She said the email blamed her and shamed her for not letting him be a father to their daughter, and that’s when Beth decided to file for a 50-year protection order for herself, and one that would apply to her daughter, as well. When her ex once again tried to manipulate the legal system during court proceedings, Beth eventually got her 50-year OFP, and got one that applies to her daughter until she turns 18 — at which time she can extend it if she so chooses.

“I really feel like the nightmare that happened inside of me was absolutely horrendous, and people agree,” Beth said. “I have a 50-year order for protection and my daughter is protected, and it’s because of the mental abuse and the manipulation and control and the threat of violence.”

Beth credits her daughter with giving her the impetus to help her get out and keep her ex out of their lives.

“She’s really a great kid,” she said. “There’s no way that I could ever let her grow up thinking that that behavior was OK, or to live in that twisted, manipulated world.”

Beth’s daughter knows that her mom has an OFP against her dad, but doesn’t yet know that it applies to her, as well. Beth said she has had conversations with her daughter about her being able to see her dad “when it’s healthy and safe,” and that her daughter knows it will be a while, should that ever happen. As her daughter gets older, Beth said they’ll talk about why she also has an OFP and how she can go about making the decision on whether to extend it at 18.

Beth said she talks about what she has been through with those she trusts, and that she has to do so to help herself heal. She strongly encouraged other survivors to do the same.

She said those in unhealthy relationships can’t minimize what’s happening to them.

“If you’ve been strangled by your partner, if you’ve been stalked, there’s a 75 percent higher chance that you’ll be murdered by that partner. Don’t minimize what’s happening to you. Be honest with yourself, as honest as you can be,” she said. “You may not be ready to leave right now, but you will be.”

Beth and her daughter have a safety plan, should they ever run into her ex or see his family or friends somewhere. There are certain festivals in her hometown that Beth avoids, and her daughter’s school knows she can’t be in public pictures or be picked up by anybody besides Beth without explicit permission from Beth. She thinks having a plan has made her daughter feel safer, and she thinks it has helped her, as well.

“I’m either walking on the side of survivor or I’m walking on the side of victim,” she said. “But no matter what, I’m still moving forward and it doesn’t take away from the things that I’ve already accomplished and it doesn’t take away from where I’m going.”

Domestic violence by the numbers

Calls for service to Albert Lea Police Department related to domestic violence in 2015: 265

Calls for service to Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office related to domestic violence in 2015: 63

Percentage of Child Protection Services open cases with current or past history of domestic violence: 24 percent

Percentage of victims using Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center in domestic violence situations: 80 percent

Minnesotans killed in 2015 due to violence from a current or former intimate partner: 34 — 22 of which were women

Read the first part of the series here.

Read the second part of the series here.

See a video of interviews from the series here.

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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