Standing in front of a crowd of more than 40 people, Rachel told her story. She admitted not that many years ago she could not have even imagined standing in front of that group.

Rachel assumed she would be dead.

A victim of years of abuse, Rachel talked about the fear, pain and desperation she felt as a victim of domestic violence during a rally held in Redwood Falls March 27 at the Redwood Falls Public Library.

“There were times when I did not see it coming,” she said, adding at times it was punches and others meant even being pushed down a set of stairs.

The abuse at the hand of her husband was not limited to her. As time went on her children faced the same abuse, and time after time she would have to lie to teachers, doctors and human services about the bruises.

“He would tell me what to say,” Rachel said.

Over the years, the abuse escalated, said Rachel, adding one day he cornered her in the bathroom and put a screwdriver through her forehead. Rachel said she got away, ran to a gas station and someone gave her a ride to the hospital.

While she told those providing medical care to her that she had fallen, they knew there was something else going on, so they gave her some phone numbers to call to get help.

“I quickly threw those away before they would be found,” she said.

The feelings of isolation grew. 

Contact with family and friends was cut off.

The last straw for Rachel was when she found her husband choking her five-year-old disabled son and seeing his face turning blue.

“I knew I had to leave,” said Rachel adding after 10 long years she got the help she needed.

Thanks to the WoMen’s Rural Advocacy Program (WRAP) Rachel said she and her children are alive.

Stories like Rachel’s are an all-too-common occurrence, and those attending the rally were given the chance to hear the statistics about domestic violence and the fact that some are not as fortunate as Rachel, as their lives were taken as a result of domestic violence.

There were 12 of them during 2018 in Minnesota, and Jason Jacobson of the Redwood County Sherif’s Department and Susan Minkel of the Redwood County Restorative Justice program, read each of those names.

One by one flowers were placed in a vase, and a moment of silence in their memory was followed by those attendance saying “we remember.”

According to Brittany Miller of WRAP in Redwood Falls, in Minnesota there are more than 55,000 survivors of domestic and sexual violence who will reach out for services during this year alone.

Many others will not be able to reach out, Miller added, and over the past three decades there have been more than 1,000 people who lost their lives as a result of domestic violence statewide.

Sadly, said Miller, no one really knows the number of people who are impacted by domestic violence every year simply because so many cases go unreported.

“These numbers reflect people like me and you,” said Miller. “They are our family members, our friends, our co-workers and our neighbors. They are people we may not know but say hello to at the grocery store or the gas station. They are us.”

Miller said those who can’t speak for themselves need to have others who are committed to raising awareness of domestic violence, adding the good news is Minnesota continues to lead the way when it comes to providing services for those victims. That, she said, needs to continue.

As part of the rally, attendees were handed cards that included information on two current pieces of legislation being proposed in Minnesota.

The first (House File 464) would provide funding for the domestic abuse transformation program, which offers intervention programming for perpetrators of domestic violence in an effort to help protect victims from further harm.

The second (House File 479) would implement funding for the domestic and sexual violence prevention fund to assist community-based advocacy programs that are working in underserved communities.

According to Lori Anderson, a Minnesota Department of Corrections probation officer in Redwood County, in 2017 there were 48 offenders on probation in Redwood County for domestic related offenses.

Anderson said those perpetrators of domestic violence are referred to a Project Turnabout program. That program lasts 26 weeks, Anderson said, adding most who are told they have to take part in that program grumble about it. Yet, many come back after they have finished the program and tell her that it really made a difference.

Anderson said there is definitely a need for continued funding for domestic abuse programming simply because it is working.

Minnesota needs to continue to lead the way, reiterated Miller, adding the work of domestic abuse prevention is not limited to policymakers or those who offer services through programs or agencies.

“It is the work of all of us. We believe we can end domestic violence, and we are asking each one of you to become part of the solution,” said Miller.

Jenna Peterson, Redwood County attorney, called Wednesday a powerful day, adding people in our communities deserve to live lives that are free from violence.

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