Domestic killings in 2020 already surpass last year

More people have died across the state from intimate partner-related violence this year than in all of 2019, according to Violence Free Minnesota, which publishes an annual report on domestic homicides.

Twenty-two people have died in domestic incidents so far this year, said Becky Smith, a spokesperson for Violence Free Minnesota. The group recorded 21 victims in the 2019 report released Thursday.

Of those 2019 victims, 16 were women killed by current or former partners. Five others were killed at the scenes of the violent acts.

“Three were family members attempting to intervene in some way,” Smith said. “Two were children shot alongside their mother in their front yard.”

Minneapolis police say the two boys were killed last December by their father, who went on to fatally shoot the boys’ mother before taking his own life. 

Smith said they don't have data to explain exactly why there are more domestic homicides this year than last.

"But what we do know about domestic violence in general at this moment is that programs are reporting an increase in the severity of the abuse that they're hearing from hotlines and from survivors who are approaching those programs," she said.

Smith added that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic is likely contributing to the increase in violence.

However, 2020 isn’t necessarily an outlier year when it comes to intimate partner homicides.

Until last year, the group formerly known as the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women published the annual tally as the Femicide Report.  The reports span more than 30 years. During that period, the number of deaths each year has ranged from 14 to 37.

Smith said they don’t see any clear patterns in the numbers from year to year. However, the group has identified several so-called “lethality factors,” which include the abusers’ access to firearms and their history of violence.

Advocates say preventing abusive behavior is crucial.

Ivette Izea-Martinez is with Casa de Esperanza, a national organization focused on eliminating domestic violence in Latino communities. She said prevention work should include teaching boys about “healthy masculinity.”

“We need to stop relying on only girls, women and female-identified folks to prevent violence,” she said. “This is going to take everybody. And yes that also includes men and boys.

Violence Free Minnesota policy director Katie Kramer said the state of Minnesota needs to invest an additional $20 million in these and other prevention programs.  

"To end abuse, Minnesota must promote culturally responsive programming that transforms behavior, prevents future violence and increases safety,” said Kramer. “Only with sustained investment in changing perpetrator behavior will we end domestic violence." 

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