Weather Forecast


Taking a public stand against domestic violence

Carrie Buddy, executive director of Safe Avenues in Willmar, says a big part of the county’s plan to prevent domestic violence involves residents in the community “taking a stand” and making a verbal declaration that domestic violence “is not tolerated.” Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR — The number of Minnesotans murdered so far this year in domestic violence-related crimes already far surpasses the total number from last year.

By September there had been 34 people — mostly women — killed at the hands of spouses, current and former intimate partners or others from a domestic relationship.

For the entire year of 2012, there were 18 domestic fatalities.

“I would say we’re fairly high … and we have three months to go,” said Carrie Buddy, executive director of Safe Avenues in Willmar, which provides services, support and shelter for domestic abuse victims. “It’s looking pretty scary right now.”

Two of the domestic fatalities this year include the Granite Falls murder of Kara Monson and boyfriend Chris Panitzke.

Monson’s ex-boyfriend, Andrew Dikken, is in jail and faces charges in their deaths.

Last year Vinessa Lozano was killed in Montevideo by a co-worker who was allegedly upset that Lozano didn’t return his affections. She was the first domestic fatality in the state in 2012.

“We’re seeing an escalation of this act in our area,” said Buddy. “It’s very concerning.”

Explaining why there’s been an increase is difficult, but Buddy said how a community responds to domestic fatalities can make a difference in the future.

Through the work of community partners here — including people in law enforcement, the county attorney’s office, the courts, community corrections, family services and advocates who work together on a multi-disciplinary risk evaluation team — there has been a proactive approach to responding to domestic violence, said Buddy.

This team approach, and using a variety of legal and advocacy tools to prevent domestic violence, “makes us stronger as a community,” she said.

Kandiyohi County “really works collaboratively together” to address domestic violence, she said. “We take it seriously.”

A big part of that plan involves residents in the community “taking a stand” and making a verbal declaration that domestic violence “is not tolerated,” said Buddy.

She said the standard for accepting any kind of domestic violence should be set at “zero.”

That message will be shouted out especially loud during October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, starting with a proclamation read by Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish during a kickoff event this morning for the team partners at Safe Avenues.

When it comes to taking action, Buddy said everyone — including the average citizen — can play a part in preventing domestic violence by “setting a tone” in the language they use.

Sometimes people use “victim-blaming language” and make excuses for abusers believed to be “nice guys,” said Buddy. She said the actions of an abuser should not be minimized.

She said people need to speak out and put the responsibility of domestic abuse on the perpetrator. “Anything else is unfair and unjust,” she said.

Because many fatalities happen when a person is about to leave an abusive situation, Buddy said those individuals need to have a safety plan in place when taking action to leave. “They need to have their resources in place. It’s not just about leaving,” she said.

Buddy said legal ground has been made in an effort to charge domestic abusers with crimes, including 2005 legislation that makes domestic abuse strangulation a felony charge punishable with jail time.

But she said more can be done to keep families safe, and community residents can make that happen by calling legislators to encourage passage of additional tools.

She said Safe Avenues staff is also eager to accept invitations to conduct educational presentations at churches and civic organizations.

Donating volunteer time, money, household items and old cell phones that can be used to make emergency 911 calls are also “simple things” people can do to help reduce domestic violence, she said.

One-third of the funding for Safe Avenues comes from local donations and the rest comes from federal and state grants.

Besides kicking off Domestic Violence Awareness Month, today’s event is also an opportunity to officially welcome Buddy as the new executive director of Safe Avenues. Buddy worked at the facility as the director of the criminal justice intervention program before assuming the duties of executive director in August, replacing longtime director Connie Schmoll.

Because the facility serves as a shelter and resource center for domestic abuse victims, its location is not widely disclosed and events there are typically limited to supporting partners.

Safe Avenues is holding a community-wide event, however, on Oct. 13 at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds in Willmar.

The Sunday Family Fun Event will be from 1-4 p.m. It will feature educational and family-friendly activities. There is a $2 per person charge, or an $8 per family fee to participate in the event.

Domestic violence

According to statistics from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, so far in 2013 there have been 34 people killed in domestic violence crimes.

That includes:

- 22 women

- 5 men

- 7 family members/friends of the targeted victim

In 2012 there were 18 people killed, including 14 women, one man and three family/friends.

Data for previous years also included children who were killed as a result of domestic violence.

In 2011 there were 34 people killed, including 23 women, one man, six family/friends and four children.

In 2010 there were 28 people, including 15 women, two men, four family/friends and seven kids.

In 2009 there were 25 people killed, including 12 women, one man, two family/friends and 10 children.

In 2008 there were 33 people killed, including 23 women, one man, two family/friends and seven children.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750