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Domestic violence took 24 lives in Minnesota in 2017, report says

ST. PAUL — At least 24 people died from domestic violence in Minnesota last year, according to a report released Tuesday, Jan. 30, by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

The number includes 19 women who died by homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner and five friends, family or bystanders involved in violent situations, according to the 2017 Femicide Report.

"We present this report in hopes that the information will propel our communities into necessary action," said Becky Smith, coalition program manager, during a news conference at the state Capitol.

Though the number of deaths is higher than the 21 reported in 2016, the coalition said it does not consider the increase a trend.

"The numbers do not tell the story of the victims' joys or triumphs as they lived, nor do they describe the tremendous grief of family members and friends as they face a lifetime without their loved ones," Smith said.

Smith said there are no clear patterns associated with the number of victims in domestic violence. Yet the numbers have remained in double digits for nearly 30 years.

Fifty-three percent of the deaths were by firearms.

Among the cases include Maria McIntosh, 19, whose sister Olivia and father, Wade, were shot and killed in St. Paul by Jeffrey Taylor, the father of Maria's child.

Taylor was reported to have a history of abuse, and later killed himself.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said his department looks at domestic violence as a public health crisis and an issue that affects everyone. Arradondo used to serve as a school resource officer to one of the victims named in the report: Vanessa Danielson.

"I cannot allow for any woman in our city, our community, to be victimized twice," Arradondo said. "One to be abused and battered, but also victimized out of fear of reporting that to the police department."

In 2015, five out of the 22 domestic violence victims were Native American women.

Though the coalition was unable to access race data for this year's report, Patina Park, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, said domestic violence is more often a matter of when, not if, in her community.

State Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, D-New Brighton, emphasized the lack of data regarding violence against Native American women, and said she plans to author a bill before the legislative session starts that requires a governor's task force on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The bill would require an annual report on issues surrounding violence against Native American populations, and ways to prevent them.

The coalition presented four recommendations to prevent domestic violence, from the findings in the 2017 Femicide Report:

— Lawmakers should lift the prohibitions against collecting data related to firearms in order for public health officials to analyze the numbers for research and policy development.

— Conduct pilot projects to test and make full use of Minnesota's current firearm laws.

— Local officials must re-examine uses of ordinances to ensure domestic violence victims can call police departments for help.

— Government agencies should establish limited-English-proficiency plans to ensure services to victims regardless of language skills.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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