By Connie Nelson, Guest Columnist
Todd County recently suffered another loss of life due to domestic violence. This is the second death in Todd County due to domestic violence in the last 10 months.
In past years, we have had domestic murder suicides, attempted murders, serious assaults and kidnappings. Beyond the victims of these crimes, how many other lives have been changed forever? We often turn our backs to this subject as it is an uncomfortable and unpleasant topic and if we don’t talk or think about it, it doesn’t seem so threatening or real.
How often have we heard people on newscasts say “We had no idea this was happening” or “they seemed like the perfect couple” or “he was always a nice guy?”
How many of these tragedies need to happen before we choose to acknowledge this epidemic and open our eyes to come together as communities and a legal system to hold these abusers accountable for their actions? What we need to know is that one in four families endures domestic violence, that every nine seconds a woman or a man, (statistically, many more women than men} is abused, that everyday more than three women in the U.S. die due to domestic violence and that domestic violence is the leading reason for emergency room visits for women.
Domestic violence is a “choice” of behavior, totally controllable by the abuser, yet we continue to make excuses, blame the victim and turn a blind eye to these behaviors, not only as a community, but also in the legal system.
According to the Stearns County Domestic Violence Court, by holding abusers accountable for their abusive behavior “choices,” they have seen a measurable decrease in repeat felony domestics. Some abusers have lengthy criminal records, while others have no criminal history. The reason for that is that most domestic assaults never get reported. It is the highest unreported crime in America.
So, why don’t victims report? There are several reasons. These victims have been brainwashed that they will lose custody of their children, that no one will believe them, that they are responsible for the abuse, that they can’t survive without the abuser in their life, have been robbed of their self-esteem and they will be killed if law enforcement is called. Pretty good reasons to not report I would say.
If you are in or have been in a violent relationship, please don’t assume this could never happen to
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you. Be aware of your surroundings and create a safety plan for yourself in case you need to leave.
As community members, we also need to be aware. If you see an incident in progress, call 911. You can do this anonymously if you wish. Also, if someone comes to you for support and she is in a violent relationship, listen and provide support, as long as you are not in danger. If you are a victim, call Hands of Hope to talk to an advocate, seek support and available resources.
Take back your life. Call The National DV Hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233. Or locally, call Hands of Hope Resource Center in Morrison County at (320) 632-1657 or (320) 632-4878. In Todd County, call (320) 732-2319 or 1 (800) 682-4547.
Connie Nelson works for Hands of Hope Resource Center, which serves both Morrison and Todd counties.