Report: At least 15 women killed in Minn. from domestic violence in 2010

Anna Gronewold
Anna Gronewold of Lake Crystal, Minn., recounts how her daughter, Ashley Sullivan, became the first domestic homicide victim of 2010. Gronewold appeared at a press conference at the State Office Building on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. Authorities believe Sullivan's ex-boyfriend, Shawn Haugen, killed her and her stepfather before killing himself.
MPR Photo/Laura Yuen

A new report from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women says at least 15 women were killed last year by their husbands, boyfriends, or intimate partners last year.

That number was slightly up from a dozen women in 2009. The report says in most cases, there was at least one red flag for potential harm to the woman's life.

For example, 67 percent of the murders of women occurred after the victim had left the relationship or when she was attempting to leave.

"While conventional wisdom persists that leaving an abuser will always make a battered women safer, separation often increases the risks of further harm, as batterers 'step' up their efforts to control or intimidate the victim," the report said.

Many of the victims also had experienced prior abuse. And 60 percent of the women were shot to death.

About half of the domestic homicides over the past three years were cases of murder-suicide, the report found.

Liz Richards, director of advocacy & systems change at the coalition, said that trend is about double the national average.

"We don't know what the answers are in this area," Richards said. "Nobody right now is grappling particularly with the mental-health and criminal court intersections around these, and that's one of the areas we're trying to pursue."

Richards said one theory is that abusers who threaten to kill themselves or others are released from mental-health evaluations because they don't fit the typical profile of someone with suicidal tendencies.

The report notes that many of the women interacted with the legal system, saw health-care professionals, received mental-health help - or reached out to family and friends.

"It is precisely those cases where we can start to make a difference. We can learn from the tragic loss of life," the report said.

In addition, at least seven children and two men died from domestic violence last year.

The coalition discussed their findings Wednesday at the State Office Building.

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