FAIRMONT - In Minnesota this year, 36 people have lost their lives as a result of domestic violence; officials say it is one of the highest numbers in years.
"Looking at last year at this time, that number is nearly doubled," said Becky Bentele, victim-witness coordinator for Martin County.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Martin County will again participate in an event to remember the lives lost and to acknowledge the many others affected by domestic violence.
The preliminary numbers provided by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women show that 23 women in Minnesota were murdered this year by a current or former intimate partner. Six men also have been murdered by a current or former intimate partner. Seven others were family members or friends killed in an incident of domestic violence.
"That's 36 people total," said Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma. "And we still have two and a half months to go."
"This is why the presentation is important," Bentele said. "It's beneficial to hear a personal story. The issues of domestic abuse are different and complicated, but they are real ... It helps to get the word out because with a personal story, other people feel compelled and feel a need to reach out. We see more people coming forward and asking for assistance more with this problem."
The event, scheduled for noon Thursday at Five
Lakes Centre in Fairmont, will feature officials in the system from law enforcement, county and city attorneys, probation officials, a judge and victim services. Also featured is a speaker whose life has been affected by domestic violence.
"The awareness piece is really big," Bentele said. "Knowing that it's happening, and letting people know the signs to look for, and knowing there are resources out there. We have agencies working together, and helping make changes."
One area that has seen more support in the battle against domestic assault is the workplace.
"There has been an increase in support and calls from the public since we started workplace training, and helping employers prepare for violent incidents," Brolsma said.
Studies have shown that for women in the workplace, the No. 1 cause of a fatality at work is homicide, according to Brolsma and Bentele.
"Outlining that reality to employers, giving them tips of what it looks like, employers are having more conversations and involvement in tackling this issue," Bentele said.
It also is estimated that domestic violence costs employers $5 billion to $8 billion annually, from workplace harassment, to leaving early or arriving late, and distraction from accomplishing work tasks.
"What occurs at home comes out in the work world too," Brolsma said. "It impacts the person's ability to do work."
But domestic violence isn't as obvious as an employee coming in with a black eye.
"A lot of it is emotional," Bentele said. "The threats and stalking. The emotional abuse; it's not always something that can be criminally charged ... Just because a person is not hit, pushed or punched does not mean they are not a victim of domestic abuse. The physical, emotional, sexual violence and abuse is all part of the domestic or partner abuse."
A local 24-hour crisis line is available at (800) 333-3983, while the Martin County Victims Services office number is (507) 238-3209.
Other resources include
CADA: (800) 477-0466; www.inspire-hope.org
Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women: www.mcbw.org
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org