Victims of domestic violence deserve change
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is the time of year when we raise awareness that domestic violence is a major problem here in Superior and Douglas County. A special thank you to the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse and the University of Wisconsin-Superior for the special attention and events that they have sponsored this month.
As district attorney, I have committed the District Attorney's Office to work to be a part of the solution. That has meant ongoing education about the dynamics of domestic abuse relationships and ongoing improvements in strategies on the many cases the DA's office handles every year. We cannot do the good work for victims and offenders without our partnerships with CASDA, local law enforcement and many community agencies and professionals. Many of the above meet monthly as part of the Douglas County Domestic Violence Coordinated Community Response Team.
Here are our 2016 statistics — so far 211 domestic abuses cases have been referred to the District Attorney's Office — that's about one each working day. Most cases involve men as offenders and women as victims. About 25 percent of Douglas County's formally charged misdemeanor cases, and about 5 percent of felonies, are domestic abuse cases. Some are very serious crimes — strangulation, false imprisonment, intimidation of victim or substantial battery. While these numbers are alarming, "the system" is only dealing with a fraction of the actual abuse that is occurring, as many victims are too afraid and intimidated to seek help, their self-esteem crushed.
Sadly, but understandably, almost every day the DA's office receives a phone call, email or visit from a domestic abuse victim asking to drop charges or just make him go to treatment so that the family can be together and get better. And almost every day, I have to respectfully challenge our victims to see the red flags of a bad and dangerous relationship and to consider their and their children's safety and impact. Bad parent relationships shouldn't hurt and scare our kids, but they do, and plant bad seeds for the kids' future.
I want to congratulate the concerned family members, neighbors and chance eyewitnesses who report incidents to law enforcement and cooperate as witnesses in our cases. I thank our officers and deputies that go into these domestic disturbance crime scenes to protect and serve. Arrests and prosecutions are likely to push abusers to admit they're wrong. The "system" and community members help victims with support and safety.
When it comes to a local response to domestic violence, please don't ask "why doesn't she leave?" Instead ask "why does he do that — what's wrong with him?" Please find a way to support victims and children, and the amazing staff and services provided by CASDA.
An excellent opportunity to learn more and support intervention efforts takes place 5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at the UWS Yellowjacket Union Great Room. "Love and Bruises: Lessons on Domestic and Dating Violence" will feature information, resources, video and keynote address by community and system change agent Scott Miller of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, and a local panel discussion. Please attend and get motivated to support the cause of stopping domestic abuse.
Dan Blank is the Douglas County district attorney.