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Published December 31 2010

Forum editorial: Open eyes to domestic violence

No doubt, North Dakota is a safe state. Unofficial homicide statistics for 2010 show there were 10 homicides in the state this year, down five from last year. Those numbers are relatively low when compared to most other states.

And while there’s no such thing as an acceptable number of homicides, an argument could be made – and often is made by folks here – that the North Dakota numbers don’t necessarily reflect a dangerous society. After all, four of the 10 deaths were related to domestic violence, and as reported this past week, the accused killers appear to have known their victims in all 10 cases.

In a nutshell, North Dakota appears to not have deranged stranger killers on the loose. So nothing to be afraid of, right?

Wrong.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says that historically about half the homicides in the state are related to domestic violence. If you aren’t alarmed by that statistic, you should be.

And how about this: In the past decade, roughly 54 percent of homicides in North Dakota have been tied to domestic violence. Yet we hear very little about what law enforcement agencies and lawmakers are doing to tackle this issue.

Sure, there’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October, if you didn’t know), but the headlines and the public discussion beyond that aren’t much more than a whisper – a shame considering it seems to be a legitimate cause for concern.

Statistics from the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services/Coalition Against Sexual Assault show that 2,641 new victims of domestic violence received services from crisis-intervention centers across the state from January 2010 to June 2010 – a 3 percent increase from the same period in 2009.

It’s not crazy to think the economy could have something to do with that increase. Domestic violence is three times more likely when couples are experiencing high levels of financial strain, according to the Department of Justice.

And NDCAWS/CASAND points out that the recession creates extra hardships for victims who are trying to protect themselves from their abuser and for advocates trying to meet the growing demand for services.

So while many of the domestic violence victims – the majority are women, but certainly not all – don’t have a voice, the rest of us do. We need to speak up and start talking about the issue. Four deaths are too many for a state that prides itself on safety and quality of life.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.