The statistics are astounding: 37 people have been killed in Minnesota this year in a domestic violence situation. Most of the victims are women, but not all. The individuals represent several races, many ages and all corners of the state.
The stories are grim: A 20-year-old college student from Burnsville killed, a young woman from Eden Prairie shot then dumped in Sartell park, a father and son dead in Brooklyn Center. The victim could be our neighbor, our coworker, our daughter. Beyond that, the abuser can also be our neighbor, a coworker, our daughter or son.
Too often, domestic violence and abuse remains behind closed doors in today’s society. Victims and abusers are kept anonymous. A close friend or relative hesitates to say anything. Small incidents are unreported. Then, one day, seemingly without warning, a family’s world collapses with a serious injury or death.
Our society has made progress on all fronts to curb and control domestic violence. For example, society has begun to open conversations about domestic abuse and violence. Read the three-part series in this newspaper, called “Behind Closed Doors,” for an in-depth overview of domestic violence in our communities.
Law enforcement now has very specific guidelines to follow when called to a domestic situation, giving officers clear direction when intervening in a domestic situation. Specific risk assessment tests help officers determine the risk of recidivism.
Support groups and advocacy groups are active every day, helping individual victims and lobbying for legislation to toughen laws against abusers.
Tragedies such as the murder and subsequent search for Mandy Matula have helped bring the conversation into to open. We associate with Mandy and her family – could that be my daughter? Or my sister? And if it was, what would I do?
We offer our respect and appreciation to families like the Matulas. By sharing their pain and search for the truth, we learn and develop new techniques to deal with these dangerous situations.
We also offer recognition to our law enforcement professionals – police, sheriff, EMTs, firefighters – who step into situations that can quickly move from ordinary to deadly. These individuals are often asked to make life or death decisions in a matter of minutes.
We thank the many victims who help women out of dangerous relationships. We also recognize volunteers who take risks to help a vulnerable
Still more needs to be done.
Every one of us needs to be aware and open to dangerous situations around us. If we are involved in a violent incident or witness such a crime within our core relationships, we need to call local law enforcement officials.
If we are aware that someone close to us is a potentially violent abuser, we need to act. We need to call the police or 911. You will often hear our law enforcement officers use the simple phrase, “See something, say something.” We follow those directions to interrupt a burglary next door – we should also follow those instructions to intervene in a violent domestic situation.
We need to continue to learn how mental illness and substance addiction exacerbates potentially violent situations, and how we can address those core issues.
If an open and honest conversation can continue, we can bring the complex issues of domestic abuse and violence into the open, then bring those problems closer to solution.
Domestic violence is a tragedy that affects us all – directly or indirectly, personally or as a member of society.
It’s time to open the doors on domestic violence.