The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 23, 2013

Third vigil remembers Svetlana Munt

CADA coordinator: Events like these can also send a message to abusers

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Reducing domestic violence is a complicated, ongoing goal toward which this 12-hour vigil can only hope to make incremental progress.

But it has more limited goals, too.

“We don’t want (the killing) to go off-radar,” said Denise Billington-Just, who organized the third-annual vigil for Svetlana Munt and other victims of domestic violence.

It has been 1,092 days, including Saturday, since Munt was killed by her husband, Joel, in front of their three children in Rasmussen Woods. Joel Munt was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Events like these can also send a message to abusers, said Emma Kind, Blue Earth County program coordinator for the Committee Against Domestic Abuse, or CADA.

“All of a sudden, people do realize this happens, and they care,” she said.

She also counseled attendees to listen to victims of domestic violence without telling them what to do. Friends and family will often tell a victim to simply leave an abusive partner, but this sort of advice can be unhelpful, Kind said.

“They’re used to someone telling them what to do. That’s what the abuser does.”

The vigil is also an opportunity for Minnesota State University students to get real-world service experience. The university’s Office of Community Engagement, at which Billington-Just is an assistant director, helped organize this event and lines up volunteering opportunities for students.

Students Ty Christopherson, Aaron Thomason or Dillon Petrowitz didn’t live in Mankato on March 28, 2010, but they still joined about 40 other students to spend most or all of their night in the park and Elks Nature Center.

Even after the sun came up, it was a chilly morning, especially when compared to last March. Saturday’s high temperature of 34 was 18 degrees colder than the low temperature on the morning of the vigil last year.

As Thomason sees it, awareness-raising events like these are part of a way to keep typically hidden social problems in the public eye.

These three students are part of a leadership group that reads to children, rakes lawns and prepares meals using leftover restaurant ingredients, among other activities.

Two Mankato police officers who responded to the call that day were there, as well, to give their support.