Now in its 30th edition, the Femicide Report has a new name: the Intimate Partner Homicide Report coinciding with the renaming of the Minnesota Battered Women's Coalition to Violence Free Minnesota.
Over three decades, at least 685 people were killed due to relationship abuse. The youngest victim was just 22 weeks old; the oldest was 88. Homicide victims include not only the victim of abuse, but people who tried to intervene to stop the violence: bystanders, first-responders, neighbors, friends, family, and children. Such victims represent the ripple effect of domestic violence and how it permeates communities. In sharing their stories, we chip away at the discredited notion that domestic violence is a private, family affair to invite public discourse and action towards a violence free future.
Power and control
While public perception of relationship abuse often emphasizes long histories of physical violence and noticeable injuries, relationship abuse is about a larger pattern of power and control.
People who abuse feel entitled to use physical, sexual, financial, and emotional tactics to control, isolate, and trap their partners. Relationships that have not previously involved physical abuse may involve long histories of humiliation, intimidation, and gaslighting that can culminate in an act of homicide. These tactics are used to instill fear in victims, increase compliance, and cause psychological injury. Victims who experience such abuse may gradually lose access to support services, become isolated from social networks, start to blame themselves, and believe they do not deserve better.
Abuse can look different in every relationship but always ties back to the same motivation: to gain and maintain power and control. Abusive partners may become horrifyingly creative in their tactics, including knowingly transmitting infections to victims and endangering their health; threatening or injuring their children and loved ones; responding with severe violence to rejection; monitoring their location and movements; controlling their access to healthy relationships; and undermining their mental and chemical health by sabotaging their recovery efforts. Many victims who have experienced pervasive levels of abuse report feeling helpless, confused, “crazy,” and defeated due to a gradual breakdown of their sense of self.
Intimate partner homicides have a devastating impact on children, as well. CDC-Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of the impact of childhood experiences on life-long health and well-being. The ACE research demonstrates that exposure to domestic violence can increase risk for physical, mental health, and substance abuse conditions. The impact of chronic domestic violence exposure in childhood was found to have long-term effects throughout the life span.
Impacts on minor children are seen throughout our 30 years of data: children who witnessed the homicide of a parent (22% of cases); children who were killed alongside their parent (16 children); and children killed as a method of coercion by an abusive partner (17 children). This data does not include the number of adult children who may have witnessed or were murdered alongside their parent. In many of the cases involving minor children, the need for protection was raised in a court proceeding or made known to another professional.
While some children are injured or killed as part of the relationship abuse against their parent, many more children are harmed by witnessing the violence. Over three decades, 151 cases of domestic violence homicide occurred with a child witnessing the murder. While experiencing and witnessing relationship violence negatively impacts children, research shows that children are most resilient and have the best emotional recovery when there is a strong relationship with the non-abusive parent. Safety of children is directly linked to the safety and support of victim-parents.
Selection of report above. Read the full report at https://www.vfmn.org/reports.