Cottage Grove domestic abuse survivors: ‘Always keep reaching out for help’A group of women who are domestic violence survivors urged people in abusive relationships to seek help and for friends and relatives who suspect domestic violence to speak up.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
One woman endured abuse for many years, leaving her husband only after he put a loaded gun to her head and cocked the hammer.
Another women fell in love fast with a man who later became violently abusive and would try to make up for hitting her by buying her flowers.
“I won,” the Cottage Grove woman said. “I left him.”
The women were among panelists at a domestic violence conversation Monday in Cottage Grove. They urged people in abusive relationships to seek help and for friends and relatives who suspect domestic violence to speak up.
Cottage Grove Police Sgt. Randy McAlister, who has studied domestic violence, organized the program with Cottage Grove City Council member Jen Peterson. Peterson is a domestic abuse survivor herself -- she was abused in her first marriage -- and joined the panel of women who shared their stories of being abused and later leaving the violent relationships. It was the first in a series of community conversations McAlister and Peterson plan.
They saw a need for the conversation after the murder last fall of a 22-year-old Cottage Grove woman. Tensia Richard was shot by her estranged husband, Chevel, who then shot and killed himself.
The recent meeting drew several dozen people, mostly women, and in addition some local police officers. They viewed a documentary about a Pennsylvania woman shot by her abusive husband and how after her death authorities pieced together the many warning signs of violence in that relationship.
McAlister pointed to a rash of domestic homicides in the Twin Cities area in recent months as he discussed risk factors and how local police now use a questionnaire called a Lethality Assessment Program to gauge the level of danger to the victim in an abusive relationship. Victims are scored based on their answers; the higher the score, the more risk there is for domestic homicide in the relationship.
One of the factors is strangulation. McAlister said choking is a big sign of the potential for more serious violence in a domestic relationship.
“It’s just one step removed from murder,” he said. “If that ever happens in a relationship, get out.”
Leaving a relationship may not be easy or safe, he and other advocates said. Sometimes leaving immediately after a violent incident is more dangerous for the victim than staying for a time. Victims are encouraged to develop a plan to leave a high-risk relationship.
Courtney Zuber is a criminal court legal advocate for Tubman, which provides domestic violence victim resources, shelter and other assistance. Zuber said it takes an average of seven attempts before a victim completely leaves an abusive relationship.
McAlister pointed to other lessons that domestic violence victims or their relatives and friends should consider:
-- Be aware of power or controlling behavior.
-- Connect the dots; sometimes multiple people observe problem behavior.
-- Targeted violence never happens suddenly.
-- Know where to find help, such as through the Tubman organization.
-- A victim of domestic violence should develop a safety plan. Those resources are available through Tubman or online.
The women who spoke about their own past experiences as victims of domestic violence said there are many support resources, from law enforcement to organizations such as Tubman.
“Always keep reaching out for help,” one woman said.
For more information or for domestic violence resources, go to www.tubman.org. Tubman’s 24-hour crisis line is 651-770-0777.