Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thoughts on domestic violence six months after a high profile murder in my community June 28, 2017

A portrait of Barb Larson by Faribault artist Dana Hanson. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

SIX MONTHS AGO a former Faribault police officer walked into the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office and murdered his ex-wife, then turned the gun on himself. It was a crime that left my community reeling just days before Christmas.

On Tuesday, The Faribault Daily News published a column by Chamber and Tourism President Kymn Anderson reflecting on life since the death of her friend and 12-year employee Barb Larson. Click here to read that piece on the Chamber website. In summary, Anderson writes about the grief she and her staff experienced, the support they received and ways in which Barb is being honored and remembered. All are important topics to cover when dealing with a violent crime that had such a profound affect on a community.

 

A photo of recent police reports published in the local paper. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This high profile case has created in Faribault a heightened awareness of domestic violence. Yet, is it a sustaining awareness? Six months from now, a year from now, five years from now will we have forgotten? Will we view this as an isolated incident or will we continue to wonder why, week after week, local law enforcement are called to respond to reports of domestic assault? What are we doing to reduce those numbers, to personally help those women who continue to be victimized?

I struggle with those tag words of domestic assault, as if domestic relegates the crime to something less important, for example, than a bar fight or a street fight. To me, domestic diminishes the crime and subconsciously lays some of the blame on the victim. As a wordsmith, I pay attention to language usage. And so does Jackson Katz, an educator who spoke on “The Language of Gender Violence” at Middlebury College, a private liberal arts college in Vermont. He claims that the way we talk and write about gender violence places blame on the victim rather than the perpetrator. Click here to read the story; it’s worth your time. And then consider how we as a society label these crimes against (mostly) women.

 

A snippet of the My inner chick homepage. Don’t let the “B” word scare you from reading this powerful blog.

 

I am passionate about educating others on the crime of domestic violence. So is Minnesotan Kim Sisto Robinson of Duluth. On May 26, 2010, Kim’s brother-in-law shot and killed Kim’s sister, Kay, and then killed himself. A month after Kay’s murder, Kim started blogging. She writes with depth, grief, honesty, passion and fire—her words flaming from her heart and soul. Kim holds nothing back. Not her grief. Not her anger. Not her desire to help others. Not her anything. If you want a personal glimpse into how domestic violence/murder has affected one woman, then read My inner chick. In her grief, Kim rises to inspire and bring hope. She has committed to raising her voice against domestic violence. In Kay’s honor.

 

The homepage for Ruth’s House website.

 

How about you? Have you educated yourself and loved ones on domestic abuse and violence? Do you notice red flags in relationships and trust your gut? Do you speak up or remain silent? In early June a Minnesota State Representative intervened when he observed a man beating a woman in downtown St. Paul. I’m not suggesting that you should do the same as it may not always be safe. But, at least call the police. I’ve done so myself, when I watched a guy shoving a woman along my street. I also called out a teen who was getting verbally abusive with his female companion. I refuse to remain silent.

I am grateful to the many organizations, like my local HOPE Center and Ruth’s House, that help women in need and their families. I love that word hope. It is such a positive, and powerful, word.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
(h/t to HOPE Center for the Jackson Katz article)

NOTE: I realize that men are also the victims of domestic abuse. But because the majority are women, I reference women when writing on this topic.

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21 Responses to “Thoughts on domestic violence six months after a high profile murder in my community”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Interesting how you view the word “domestic”. I have not thought of it as diminishing at all but I can understand how you could view it that way. Thank you again for your passion for educating and promoting safety for all.

  2. I am an advocate myself. I continue to keep an eye/ear open with the situation that seems to continue in our neighborhood. A little too close for me, but I will not hesitate to report, especially when children are innocents in the mess. Thanks for being an advocate. Take Care

  3. –Dear, Audrey,

    I am thankful for you, your blog, your words, and your strong VOICE))))

    You will not stand silent…
    because silence crushes souls, lives & Kills. Kills. Kills.

    I hope you don’t mind if I add the most powerful, brilliant advert I’ve watched thus far
    about silence, not getting involved & indifference.

    xx love from Duluth.

    • That clip is brilliant, Kim. Dear readers, please click on the link included in this comment. What you see and read there will have a profound affect on you.

      My darling Kim, I am grateful for you and your strong VOICE.

      Love from Faribault

  4. Jackie Says:

    Thank you again Audrey for reminding us and educating us on this topic. It still just boggles my mind the disregard for human life and how it can be taken away without remorse by some deranged person. Ugh!

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    I, too, haven’t really thought that the word “domestic” diminished that horrendous activity but, rather, I associated the words “hidden” and “unseen” and “controlling” with it. It’s so insidious as it seems to “fly beneath the radar” until it begins to acheive an extreme conclusion that (hopefully) draws in others/outsiders who attempt to break the cycle/bring ‘aid’ to those involved. As with other addictions (alcohol, drugs), the “addiction” to the need for power/control over another requires a knowledgeable intervention for the health of those involved……both directly and others who are impacted (children, etc).
    I know there are those that say that this is now more widely reported, rather than a rising statistic, but I wonder if that is truly so or a symptom of the (more) Godless society we find ourselves in today.

    • Control and power are at the very core of domestic abuse and violence. And you’re right about it being insidious, creeping into lives. Abusers are masters at what they do and for them to change would take a great deal of therapy, intervention and more, especially with those who are repeat offenders.

      If we could simply rescue those in abusive situations, it would be great. But that isn’t the case; the victim has to make that choice to leave an abusive relationship. We can be there to support and help protect and empower. Keeping communication open with someone in an abusive relationship is absolutely vital for anyone trying to help.

      It’s a complicated subject and I am thankful for the increased awareness. Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

    • “addiction?”

      Another excuse for the abuser, manipulator, and killer.

      Nope.

      They get NO MORE excuses.

      My sister’s murderer gets no more justifications for his act of terror, his decision to end her life.

      No. More.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        I am heartbroken at what you/your family endured. Our family is in the process of dealing with an extremely hurtful situation (thankfully, caught before a life was lost) and I beg your forgiveness for my poor choice of words. I did not, in any way, mean to imply that the abuser should be given any type of “free pass”/excuse for his, or her, behavior.

      • –We can learn from one another, Treadlemusic.

        That is a beautiful thing.

        Btw, I’ve forgiven my sister’s murderer…

        But I do not excuse his decision to stop her heart from beating. This CANNOT be justified.

        He changed several lives the day he decided to do that, including her children….

        but we are moving forward telling our stories.

        Sending you love from Duluth.

  6. Sandra Seelhammer Says:

    Good morning Audrey. I prefer the term Interpersonal Violence (IPV), and one of the speakers at a recent conference I attended wanted us to call it Interpersonal Terrorism. Like you, I believe that using the word domestic minimizes what is really happening in that relationship. What do you think of IPV or IPT?

    • I have to think about this. But off the top of my head, I would definitely choose “Interpersonal Violence” over the “Interpersonal Terrorism” tag.

      But my question is why does the legal system use the term “domestic” in front of assault? Why isn’t it, for example, “first-degree assault” when a husband beats his wife? Why is “domestic” paired with the word “assault” in an act of violence between a man and a woman in a relationship? Why is it any different? I can’t get past the idea that “domestic” lessens the crime. Perhaps it’s just me and my word way of thinking…

  7. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    You raise a good point about the word ‘domestic” as a category of assault or violence. Domestic is a belittling term – going back to the time when domestics were servants or people who didn’t count. I think the word still carries some of those negative ideas. Perhaps it would help to change this term but what you are doing to educate people on the issue is more important. Thanks for keeping this difficult topic in front of us.

  8. Susan Ready Says:

    I enjoy your blog postings that always encourage thoughtful discussions on relevant issues and continue to raise awareness on the subject of domestic violence. Thanks for efforts.also on educating your community.

  9. Thank you for sharing. I will check out that blog


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