Breaking Free: Digging deeper into domestic assault rates in Olm - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Breaking Free: Digging deeper into domestic assault rates in Olmsted County

5 Disadvantages to Domestic Abuse 5 Disadvantages to Domestic Abuse
Donna was repeatedly abused by her husband. Donna was repeatedly abused by her husband.

It's a chilling statistic: 52 percent of people who commit domestic assault in Olmsted County will do it again, according to the Intervention Project for Domestic Assault. Last year 509 domestic assaults were reported in Olmsted County.

Almost all of the victims are women, each blow brings them closer to their breaking point. Sometimes it ends in suicide or even death.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, from 1994 - 2010,  4 in 5 victims of domestic violence were female.

Naomi Bohlman's sister Donna took her own life in 1990 at just 35 years old after years of abuse from her husband. Their family knew Donna's husband was abusive, but they feared that if Donna left he would find her and retaliate. But when the abuse worsened, they helped Donna escape Owatonna for Las Vegas.

Their worst fear soon became a reality. He found her.

Donna took her life on their anniversary. She was a mother of two.

"She thought there was no other way out," said Bohlman.

Donna left journals detailing years of abuse from her husband.

April Evenson of Rochester was abused by her boyfriend in 2003. It was the first time he had hit her, but it almost landed her in the grave.

When recounting that day Evenson said, "I was in and out of consciousness I remembered him coming back with a rubber mow and swinging it back into my abdomen. It was hours later he came downstairs. I thought he was coming to finish the job and instead he just left me basically for dead."

Several days later Evenson woke up in a hospital bed. Her kidney and spleen were removed as a result of her injuries. Doctors also manipulated her liver.

When police arrived, Evenson said she made up a fake story and went back to living with the boyfriend who attacked her. She didn't tell police what really happened until months later.

According to the Gender Violence Institute abusers get almost 40 benefits from their actions, but just five disadvantages: arrest, divorce, civil protection orders against them, going to court-mandated groups, and not being invited to their kids' wedding.

Chuck Derry, the co-founder of the Gender Violence Institute says it's up to the criminal justice system to end the disparity.

Derry said, "One of the most effective ways is a strong and effective criminal justice response. Which results in consequences for his behavior. And the more intrusive the consequences are the less likely he is to re-offend." He goes on to say, "[most] women don't leave because it's not safe to leave."

According to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving their abuser than any other time.

Right now Derry is working to make the system better. He's more than halfway done with a 13 month evaluation to improve the way Olmsted County's criminal justice system addresses domestic violence at every level, so the 52 percent repeat offender rate goes down.

Derry was hired by the Women's Shelter within their Intervention Project for Domestic Assault Program. The goal of evaluation is to address these gaps in the system so the same people stop committing these violent crimes over and over again.

The evaluation is expected to be finished by May.

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