The Executive Director of the Hope Center for Domestic Violence Help in Faribault told the Rice County Board of Commissioners today it indeed is a growing issue throughout Minnesota.

Erica Staab-Absher was invited to speak before the board after a tragedy in Faribault last week that ended in a murder-suicide.

Sheriff Troy Dunn, County Attorney John Fossum and Social Services Director Mark Shaw also addressed the topic.

Absher shared some statistics that are frankly mind blowing.  One in three women in the world are abused in their lifetime.  Three women are killed during domestic violence every day.

The Faribault victim last week was the 16th this year in Minnesota Staab-Absher said,"So you know that you are not the only community that deals with it, however with Hope Center serving approximately 1,200 people each year we know that Rice County has an issue with domestic violence and sexual assault."

Staab-Absher has been working with the issue for over two decades, telling Commissioners there are some things that do work.  "There are things that make things better and easier for victims to come forward.  We know that by breaking the silence is one of the best things we can do.  So by people in power being able to say this will not happen in my community.  This will not happen on my watch.  That's one of those important things that we as a community can do."

The Hope Center Executive Director plainly stated law enforcement is not going to solve the problem of domestic violence.  Tougher prosecutors will not solved it.  Educators won't but all of the community working together she believes can change the culture.

"It starts with education.  It starts with talking to our young children.  It starts with differant expectations.  It starts with men speaking up.  It starts with having conversations.  It starts with knowing where to go.  All of these pieces are part of the puzzle that we can make a healthier community.  I haven't lost faith.  I haven't lost hope."

Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn shared a couple of tragic stories he's seen in his long career in law enforcement and got choked up, "It still gets me emotional after working in this job this long and it doesn't get any easier.  We have to keep sharing the message that we're going to hold people accountable.  We're going to get them help, but some people don't want help. So then we need to have a place that we can put the victims and get them back on the right track of getting their life back in order."

"We need to hold the suspects accountable for their actions and hopefully give them the help that they need.  But as we see sometimes they have to want the help and if they don't want the help then we need to keep them someplace where the community and these victims are safe.  Unfortunately that's our jails."

Dunn added, "We need to get the message out.  Somebody needs to have the voice for those victims such has the one that happened here last week.  Where people knew that there was arguing and fighting going on for some point of time.  I know people are always a little hesitant to say, you know that's their business and  I didn't want to intervene or I didn't want to call.  We don't know what that call could mean.  It might mean saving somebody's life it might be that first step to get them out of that abusive situation."

Staab- Absher pointed out, "This is not just an incident between two people. It is a community problem and requires community resources. It takes a community talking about it.  Breaking the silence and just deciding what are we going to do together as a community to respond to this?"

Rice County Attorney John Fossum told Commissioners, "Obviously domestic assault, sexual assault are big drivers of our caseload.  The hard part is that it's women, it's men, it's a wide spectrum of people that we deal with. I wouldn't miss the work.  I think we'd all be glad if we could find a way to end it.  They are the most challenging cases.  It's hard to get the victims to participate.  It's hard to get the victims to work with us and stay with the case."

Minnesota experienced a nearly 17 percent increase in violent crimes in 2020 according to a just-released report from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

There were 185 murders in Minnesota last year, compared to 117 in 2019, just shy of a 60 percent increase.  It's the highest ever number of murders in the state, two more than the previous record from 1995.  There was a downward trend of several years prior to 2020.  Arson increased nearly 54 percent.  Motor vehicle thefts were up almost 20 percent, the highest number since 2005.

Bias crimes were the highest in 15 years.  31 incidents involved officers shooting suspects, six more that the year before and almost evenly split between the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.

Officers were assaulted in the line of duty in 667 incidents in 2020, a 62 percent increase and the most of any year on record.

Staab-Absher recommended everyone put the toll-free Domestic Violence Hotline number in their phone 1-800-607-2330.  Hopefully you never need to use it but it's there if you do.

More evidence of breaking the silence working the Hope Center Executive Director says a number of her friends are pastors and tell here every time they give a sermon on the topic of domestic violence a few people come forward.

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