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A frightening set of markers

Nancy Sullivan was in the process of moving out of her Shoreview home when her boyfriend shot her, her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. Nancy did not survive.

Kara Monson was stalked and threatened by her ex-boyfriend. He entered her home at 3 a.m. and opened fire on Kara and her boyfriend. Neither survived.

Manya Johnson was killed by her husband with their 18-month-old son present. He dismembered her body and stored it in plastic bins in a friend's garage.

The names are markers, along with the names of Anitra, Sonya, Cynthia, Geraldine, Danielle, Anna, Kira, Yesenia and more.

25 - At least that many women died from domestic violence in 2013 in Minnesota.

6 - At least that many family members or friends died from domestic violence in 2013 in Minnesota.

12 - At least that many minor children were left motherless due to domestic violence in 2013 in Minnesota.

Those are real markers.

For 25 years, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) has produced an annual Femicide Report that tracks deaths due to violence by a current or former intimate partner.

Big changes have been made over those 25 years in such areas as the criminal justice system, police response times, crisis intervention and emergency housing, but the problem persists.

Ending domestic violence could seem impossible and overwhelming. Liz Richards challenges us to think differently. The executive director of MCBW is direct: "We can't just say preventing domestic violence is a problem for the criminal justice system to solve. Everybody has a role to play in this."

She continues:

"If I am a mother, how do I talk to my children about healthy relationships, about how we deal with conflict, about the use of violence? That is part of the solution. Is it the one thing that will solve everything? Of course not. But it is multiple varied strategies.

"What is my role with the next-door neighbor? When there is a loud party, is it my role to go in there and stop any violence? I don't think so. But it is my role when they are out on the front porch to say, 'Hey, do you need some help over there? I hear what is going on.'

"When I go to a family gathering and there is this really intense interaction between two family members, do I just avoid them or do I think about what is an appropriate way as a family to support changing the dynamic?

"If you think there is something going on with the neighbor at the end of the street, make a connection. Be present. Be in the community. It might not seem like you are doing anything about domestic violence, but you are. Little steps like that matter. You don't have to have the answer or the whole solution.

"Domestic violence is not something that happens out there. It is here amongst us. And it is my responsibility to step up and do something. What are the small things I can do? Or they may be big things. But what are the things I can do?"

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
To search online for an assistance program near you, go to tinyurl.com/pbqtpog or www.mcbw.org
Day One 24-hour crisis line: 866-223-1111 or www.dayoneservices.org/

Where do you see women connecting and making change in your world? Send me your story, magnuson@womenspress.com


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