The impact of domestic violence

Almost 1,000 Minnesotans have lost their lives to domestic violence in Minnesota in the last 27 years. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) released its annual Femicide Report in January, which documents homicides resulting from intimate partner violence in Minnesota. MCBW has been releasing this report every year since 1989, making it the oldest publication of its kind in the country.
This is what we know from our reports:
• Every year between 20 to 40 people, mostly women, have been killed due to domestic violence in Minnesota;
• Almost half of these deaths were murder-suicides;
• Half of the victims were killed with firearms;
• Most of the victims were murdered while attempting to leave the abusive relationship;
• And in 1 in 3 cases, children were either present at the time of their mothers’ homicides or discovered the body.

We also know that in over 75 percent of women’s homicides in Minnesota in the last decade, the perpetrator was a current or former intimate partner. In the same time period, between 30 to 40 percent of all homicides in Minnesota were domestic violence-related.

There are no stereotypes when it comes to domestic violence homicides. The victims in our reports represent all races and all socioeconomic backgrounds. These homicides have happened in the richest urban neighborhoods to the poorest rural communities across Minnesota.

While these statistics are horrifying and should shock us to our core, they only give us a glimpse into the impact of domestic violence in our communities. They do not tell us that in 2016 alone, over 65,000 survivors and their children sought services from domestic violence programs in Minnesota – many of whom had unmet needs due to lack of resources. They do not tell us about the many women who end up homeless or incarcerated due to the abuse they have faced. These statistics simply reflect the disturbing and stark reality of domestic violence in our communities.

After several years of collecting and analyzing data for this report and tracking these cases, I can say one thing for certain: none of us is safe from domestic violence until all of us are safe from domestic violence.

The victims of domestic violence do not live their lives in silos, and they deserve a response that is multifaceted and that recognizes their lived reality. Domestic violence is not simply a private issue between two people. It is a public safety issue; we need accountability and effective interventions for perpetrators. It is a public health issue; abuse and trauma can severely impact survivors’ physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It is an economic justice issue; leaving an abusive relationship will not result in safety if a survivor faces homelessness and poverty.

And most importantly, domestic violence is a community issue. All of us – in our roles as family members, friends, neighbors, educators, and employers – must believe and support survivors of domestic violence. Services can only go so far. It takes a community to keep victims safe.

Safia Khan is a program manager for Criminal Justice System Advocacy at the MN Coalition for Battered Women.