Statistics show that one in four women will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime. Last Wednesday, WINDOW Victim Services held a Domestic Violence Awareness event at the Pine County Courthouse. This event was part of a statewide day of action entitled, "We Believe: Minnesotans Against Domestic Violence." The goal was to encourage community members and elected officials to pay more attention to domestic violence.
Last year 24 Minnesotans were killed during domestic violence altercations. The youngest victim was 17, the oldest 65. Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson, Cheryl Terhaar, a victim witness coordinator with the Kanabec County Attorney’s Office and Lauren Dwyer, a prosecutor for the Pine County Attorney’s Office, read the names of each of the 24 victims. As each name was read, a red rose was placed in a vase and those gathered responded, “We remember.”
Katie (not her real name) was in a relationship with her significant other for a few years and they had a child together. Katie told the audience she didn’t know that what was happening to her was considered abuse. After all, he hadn’t hit her.
Five years ago, after not getting along for a few months, Katie asked this man to leave. His response? He threw her on the ground and threatened to kill her. The next day, she went to work and when she came home, he was gone. She went to sleep, hiding under her five-year-old daughter’s bed. He came back and dragged her out from under the bed, threw her down the stairs, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill both her and her daughter.
Katie tried to get into her daughter’s room, but the door was locked. She managed to get outside, only to hear her daughter yelling from her bedroom window, “Mommy, don’t leave!” Her ex told her that if she left, anything that happened to their daughter would be Katie’s fault.
Katie made the decision to do whatever he wanted in order to protect her daughter. The police showed up at the house the next morning when Katie didn’t show up for work. Her ex was charged with felony kidnapping and served 11 months in jail and 11 months on probation.
Katie is now required by the courts to participate in supervised visitation with her ex and her child. She is forced to see him every week. Her daughter still suffers from anxiety and night terrors.
“I have not healed,” said Katie. “It’s been five years, but it’s still fresh.”
Sharon Weidendorf of The Refuge Network said, “The work to end domestic violence is not just the work of policy makers. It’s the work of all of us.”
Weidendorf told those gathered they have taken the first step by listening and believing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The second step is to ask elected officials to support legislation that responds to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Postcards were handed out at the rally to be sent to the state Capitol to support these bills.