Guest column: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationwide
Published 8:43 pm Friday, October 28, 2022
Guest column by Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center staff
Every 16 minutes in the United States on average, a woman is murdered by her current or former intimate partner — FBI and State Crime Data collected 2006-2014, analyzed by Associated Press.
For the past five years during the month of October, Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center (CVCC) has recognized domestic violence as a public health issue by hosting Paint the Town Purple. Through our Paint the Town Purple campaign, we wish to highlight and recognize the damage domestic violence has in our homes and communities. CVCC works with state and national organizations to support victims and survivors of domestic violence: Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Violence Free MN, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Standpoint MN and many others.
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Each year, Violence Free Minnesota (VFMN) publishes a Homicide Report, detailing the lives lost to intimate partner violence in our state. The hope is there will be a time when this report is no longer needed. In 2021 there were at least 26 people killed due to intimate partner homicide in Minnesota: 20 women and six friends, family members or bystanders. At the core of relationship abuse is oppression, power and control. Physical violence is only one of the tactics abusers use to control their partners, and usually also includes threats, intimidation, isolation, using the children, financial control, harassment/stalking, and psychological and sexual abuse.
There are four key risk factors for domestic abuse homicides: victim’s attempts to leave, previous threats to kill the victim, abuser’s access to firearms and abuser’s history of violence (VFMN 2021 Homicide Report). We know that violence comes in many forms, and often guns are used to murder a partner in a final act of dominance. An abusive partner’s access to firearms significantly increases lethality.
Shannon Barry, executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services- Madison, said, “In homes with domestic violence, and (where) the abuser has a firearm, the victim is five times more likely to be shot and killed by that firearm than in other homes with domestic violence where there’s not a firearm.” CVCC assists domestic violence victims in filing Orders for Protections (OFP) to provide some safety. Specifically, with an OFP victims can request firearms be removed from their abuser/Respondent. In Minnesota a judge can only remove firearms after a qualifying order (OFP), which includes a hearing with notice given to the respondent to appear at that hearing. Removing firearms lowers the chance of homicide by any means in a relationship, meanwhile the presence of a firearm in the home increases the chance of the worst incidents of domestic violence ending in murder. In Violence Free MN 2021 Homicide Report, “sixteen total victims (62% of total victims; 11 adult women victims, 55%) were killed by firearms.”
Domestic abusers are more likely to commit additional violent crimes including violence against non-intimate partners and mass shootings. More than half, 54%, of mass shootings involved a perpetrator who also shot their intimate partner or relative during the incident (NPR- The Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings, 2017). National studies also show that firearms are the most commonly used weapon when there are multiple people killed by an intimate partner.
Many times, survivors report their abuser has threatened suicide to instill fear and guilt. The most prevalent type of murder-suicide is between two intimate partners, with a man killing his wife or girlfriend and most commonly when the relationship is leading towards a separation. According to American Roulette: Murder-Suicide in the United States, analyzing murder-suicide incidents shows 89% (248 of 280) of those incidents involved a firearm and 91% of those offenders were men who acted alone. The Violence Policy Center has found that female intimate partners are more likely to be killed by a firearm than all other means combined.
There is a myth that women or children often lie about family violence. Claims like these are used many times to downplay the issue and shift blame on to the victim/survivor. Unfortunately, family violence is often underreported for fear of not being believed. According to the ABS Personal Safety Survey 2016, less than half of the women who experienced violence from a current partner had sought advice or support about the violence. This myth is very dangerous, as it can deter women from reporting or getting the resources they need to be safe.
We know there are systemic problems that contribute to the use of violence in family relationships. CVCC strives to end the use of intimate partner violence by working with partners and allies to promote change, increase collaboration and address the negative impacts domestic violence has in our communities. Minnesota Department of Public Safety – Office of Justice Programs and Freeborn County fund CVCC to provide resources, advocacy and information to victims/survivors. If you are or know someone experiencing domestic violence please reach out to our agency. We are located in the Government Center: 411 S Broadway Albert Lea MN. Advocates can be reached 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and through our 24-hour crime victims crisis line at 507-377-5460/by email at CVCCoffice@co.freeborn.mn.us