Jen Peterson Viewpoint: Don't wait to stop domestic abuseDomestic violence can happen to anybody at any time. It is not isolated to any one population. There is help out there for the victims, families and even for those who are the abusers. It is not something to be ashamed of or something to be hidden. It can be stopped and victims can be helped.
By: Jen Peterson, South Washington County Bulletin
October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are many issues that I hold near and dear to my heart but this issue holds a special place. Personally, having been a victim myself during my first marriage, and surviving and thriving after my escape, I hope that my speaking out will encourage others in the same situation to seek help as I did.
First of all I’d like to highlight some sad statistics. These figures tell us the numbers of people we know died as a result of domestic violence in Minnesota over the last 10 years: 51, 2001; 29, 2002; 24, 2003; 27, 2004; 33, 2005; 41, 2006; 35, 2007; 33, 2008; 25, 2009; and 28 in 2010.
Those statistics include women, children and men and it’s believed to be lower than the actual number as there are some victims where domestic violence is suspected but their bodies are never located. To clarify, most often domestic violence means that the alleged or convicted perpetrator has some sort of family relationship with the victim such as: current or former spouse or intimate partner, other household member, parent or guardian or intimate partner of the parent or guardian.
In 2009, 29 percent of homeless women reported that their homelessness was in part because of domestic abuse. There is also a high incidence of battered women and men who stay in an abusive relationship because they have nowhere else to live. All too often, many victims are most severely injured or murdered by their abuser when they flee the abusive relationship.
In my preparation to write this piece, I communicated with the Cottage Grove Public Safety Department. I received a lengthy and detailed response that elaborated on the steps that Cottage Grove is taking to respond to domestic violence. This included many trainings for Public Safety Department members and use of a few different “assessment tools” when there is a domestic violence situation. These tools assign a specific risk level based upon the outcome of the assessment, and help the responding officers know what steps to take to help protect the victim. The department works closely with Washington County law enforcement, courts and corrections and the Tubman Service to make sure that the victim is safe and that the abuser is dealt with appropriately.
There are many things that others can do to help with the issue of domestic violence. First and foremost, call 911 if you witness somebody being abused. If you suspect that somebody you know is in a violent relationship, ask them if they are safe, listen to them, be non-judgmental, encourage them to seek help through domestic violence programs where they can set up a safety plan, offer to babysit if they need to go to court, offer to help them move out of an unsafe place, to name just a few. It’s also really important to talk to teens about what is appropriate and healthy behavior in a dating relationship.
If you are a victim of domestic violence please call 911 if a situation even starts to become threatening. In some cases things can get bad in a hurry so don’t wait until it’s too late. Learn about some options for help by visiting the website for Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women at www.mcbw.org or call Day One (MN Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline) at (866) 223-1111.
Domestic violence can happen to anybody at any time. It is not isolated to any one population. There is help out there for the victims, families and even for those who are the abusers. It is not something to be ashamed of or something to be hidden. It can be stopped and victims can be helped. This I know is true. I’m proof.
Jen Peterson is a Cottage Grove City Council member.