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Effort seeks to end abuse

September 29, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so local officials will get it started with a professional panel noon Monday at Five Lakes Centre.

"The theme for 2012 is 'Connect, Challenge and Change,'" said Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma.

Part of the focus is other men connecting with and challenging the men who batter women.

"We realize that there is woman-on-man domestic assault but the majority is still violence against women," Brolsma said. "About 85 percent of the murders and assaults are committed by men. About 90 percent of the domestic assaults are committed by men, and about 99 percent of the rapes are committed by men. We're not trying to pick on the guys, but the challenge part is showing that this is what's going on."

Nationally, in combating domestic violence, it has been men appealing to men to come forward and help cultivate a change against violence.

"We're changing the acceptance of violence against women," Brolsma said. "It's not an acceptable way to live. About 26 years ago, there was the approach of, 'It's a family issue; we can't do anything about it,' unless someone was severely injured or killed. But now we are becoming involved."

Other ways officials hope to combat domestic violence is by educating men and women about intervention methods, along with looking at prevention standpoints.

"We recognize that the stigma still keeps people from taking action," Brolsma said. "But in the past year and a half, we've responded to about 325 domestic calls, so family troubles are common, but they are at risk for continuing."

Becky Bentele, Martin County's Victim/Witness coordinator offered some signs to look for in someone suspected of being a victim of domestic abuse.

"Family, friends, business owners, bosses and co-workers should become more aware and recognize some of these signs," she said. "The cost of domestic violence to employers nationwide is about $13 billion. There's also $4.1 billion in health care costs alone."

Some signs include several injuries that are usually explained away with being accident-prone, along with clothing that might hide and cover bruises or injuries.

Another sign is the loss of time, from coming into work late or taking numerous sick days. Once at work, the victim may receive numerous phone calls from her husband or boyfriend during the day.

"There is also the sub-par performance at work," Bentele said. "Personal problems do end up spilling over into the other areas of our lives."

Children at school also may exhibit signs, such as behavior changes or a drop in performance if parents are fighting at home.

"When we did a training on workplace violence matters, as part of our training we learned that the No. 1 cause of death for women on the job is homicide," Brolsma said. "And a lot of times, it's domestic violence."

Officials also believe it is important to get out the word to young people who are beginning to get involved in romantic or domestic relationships.

"More teens are now experiencing partner violence," Bentele said. "Women ages 16 to 24 have the highest rate of intimate partner violence."

Monday's panel on domestic violence will feature Anna Gronewald of Lewisville who lost her daughter, Ashley Sullivan, and her husband, Chester Gronewald, to domestic violence in 2010.

"Last year when we held this panel, we had silhouettes that represented the lives lost," Bentele said. "This year, the Sentence to Service crew took on a project and made silhouettes; one for each domestic violence death in Minnesota in 2011. There were 23 women, four children and one man killed."

Preliminary numbers for Minnesota for 2012 are 11 women, two children and one man.

"We need to continue to keep brining awareness, because it's not going away," Brolsma said.



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