The issue: Recent report indicates 24 people were killed during 2017 in Minnesota as a result of domestic abuse

Local impact: Organizations and resources exist for victims who need help.

Domestic violence thrives in silence.

Those who support victims know that all too well.

For Brittany Miller, who serves as the WoMen’s Rural Advocacy Program (WRAP) coordinator and advocate in Redwood County, it is absolutely critical to get the word out to let those being abused know help is available and they are not alone.

Domestic abuse is not going to go away, said Becky Smith program manager in public awareness for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW). That reality hit home again in 2017, as the MCBW reported there were 24 known homicides that occurred in Minnesota due to domestic violence.

That statistic was presented by MCBW in its most recent “Femicide Report,” release at the end of January.

Data collected in the report is gathered from media and public resources, added Smith, who said the reality is there are many others whose names do not appear in the report.

Having the report presented each year helps to break the silence, added Smith, and brings to light the reality that something needs to be done to address domestic abuse.

Safia Khan, a policy analyst and data manager for MCBW said the report has been presented each year since 1989, and over nearly 30 years the reality is almost every county in the State of Minnesota has had instances of known homicide due to domestic violence. For Khan, this is not a metro vs. rural issue, as the data shows about half of the number reported each year comes from each region.

Why was the report started in 1989?

“No one else was doing it,” said Khan.

“In 2017 we listened with open hearts as survivors of harassment and sexual and domestic violence joined the chorus of ‘Me Too,’” said Smith in the press release announcing the 2017 “Femicide Report. “We recognize the tragedy of domestic violence homicides, and the 24 people Minnesota lost in 2017, as the most extreme manifestation of an abuse of power.”

According to Miller, WRAP is an organization that works with all victims of domestic violence, adding support is available 24 hours a day through its help line. Miller also has an office on Mill Street in Redwood Falls, and during the week walk-ins are always welcome.

Funded primarily through the Office of Justice Programs, WRAP in Redwood County is part of a larger regional program that also includes offices in Lyon, Lincoln and Yellow Medicine counties.

Miller, who started her role with WRAP in Redwood County earlier this year, went to college specifically to work with victims and programs that help those who have been impacted by domestic violence.

“My mom was actively involved in helping victims,” said Miller, adding it was integrated into her life and ingrained at an early age just how important this work was.

Miller called domestic abuse an epidemic, adding while the issues are primarily centered on women and children as the victims, there are times when men are abused, too.

When someone calls or walks into her office, Miller said she makes herself available to listen to their story.

“We believe victims,” she said, adding the last thing a victim needs is to think the people they are talking with don’t think what they are saying is credible.

Everything that is shared to a WRAP advocate like Miller is kept completely confidential, she emphasized, adding as a victim goes through the process WRAP advocates walk alongside them every step of the way.

Services, such as safe housing, court advocacy, emergency transportation and education are offered to victims through WRAP, and Miller said a support group has also been initiated. That group meets every other Tuesday.

To learn more about the support group, contact Miller at (507) 637-3040.

Smith said while the “Femicide Report” lists statistics, the people behind the data are more than just a number.

Each story involves a person, and Smith said MCBW works to make sure those people’s lives are remembered and honored through the continuous work being done by organizations across Minnesota.

“The numbers do not tell the story of the victims’ joys or triumphs as they lived, nor do they describe the tremendous grief of family members and friends as they face a lifetime without their loved one,” said Smith.

Smith said groups such as MCBW not only advocate for victims they also focus attention on policy issues and continue to be a voice at the state and federal level to ensure laws being passed are not hurting victims even more. An open house is being held April 10 at the WRAP office in Marshall (700 North Seventh Street) from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Everyone is encouraged to come and learn more.

For those who are facing domestic abuse right now, help is a phone call away. Call the 24-hour crisis line toll free at 1-800-639-2350.

Learn more at www.letswrap.com.

– Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain