MANKATO — South-central Minnesota didn’t have any domestic violence homicides in 2017, according to a new report, although the absence of regional cases can’t be seen as a trend.
Cases tallied in the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women’s annual femicide report fluctuate with little predictability both regionally and statewide.
So while no domestic violence homicides from the Mankato area were among the 24 cases statewide in 2017, two local deaths were included among the 21 cases the previous year.
The constant among the ebbs and flows, advocates say, is domestic violence remains a problem throughout Minnesota.
“I would definitely say it remains a major issue down here,” said Jason Mack, executive director at the Committee Against Domestic Abuse.
He said the nonprofit had nearly 2,500 clients in 2017. Not all were leaving dangerous domestic situations, but some were. And a victim attempting to leave their abuser is among the leading lethality factors tracked by the coalition.
The report goes beyond the numbers and into details on the circumstances of the victims. Becky Smith, program manager in communications and public awareness for the coalition, said the goal is to find answers about how to prevent future deaths.
“What we know is one is too many, and we present the report in the hopes the information we’ve gleaned from the lives and deaths of victims of domestic violence homicides can provide more information for solutions,” she said.
Last year’s report included the murders of Mankato’s Barbara Wilson and Good Thunder’s Kimberly Hernandez. Both were murder-suicides committed by their husbands.
Wilson was killed by gunshot, which has been the leading cause of death in the homicides going back at least three years. Included in the coalition’s recommendations this year is a call for lawmakers to lift prohibitions in state statute prohibiting collection of firearm-related data.
Other recommendations centered on economic factors, which Smith said was an increased focus in this year's report. Affordable housing and job security are among the topics cities and businesses could tackle to reduce barriers victims face when trying to escape dangerous situations.
Businesses should develop workplace domestic violence policies, while grants establishing donations to help victims cover rent could be funded, Smith said.
Besides attempts to leave a dangerous relationship, other leading lethality factors included previous threats to the victim, an abuser’s access to firearms and an abuser’s history of violence.
Mack and Smith said people experiencing these red flags or noticing loved ones experiencing them should first form a plan to safely remove themselves from the situation. Mack encouraged anyone in need of help to use CADA's free 24/7 hotline for people in its Region 9 coverage area at 1-800-477-0466.