Keep women safe from domestic violence

  • Article by: STAR TRIBUNE EDITORIAL
  • Updated: May 13, 2013 - 9:16 AM

Friends, relatives and coworkers can help victims find assistance.

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Hundreds of volunteers turned out to search for missing 24-year-old Mandy Matula in Victoria May 11, 2013.

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

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The disappearances of missing Twin Cities women Kira Trevino and Danielle Jelinek came to tragic ends last week following weeks of searching by police, friends and families.

Both Trevino and Jelinek — and a third local woman who remains missing — were involved in troubled relationships with men.

Trevino’s body was found Thursday in the Mississippi River near downtown St. Paul. The 30-year-old St. Paul woman had been missing since February, and her husband is scheduled to go on trial for her murder later this month.

Jelinek’s body was found Friday in a swampy area near the Chisago Lake Township home of Aaron Schnagl. Friends have said the 28-year-old Oakdale woman, who had been missing since last December, had an on-again, off-again relationship with Schnagl, who is in custody on drug charges.

Meanwhile, Mandy Matula, 24, of Eden Prairie was last seen with her ex-boyfriend, David Roe, on May 1. Roe shot and killed himself after police called him in for questioning.

The three high-profile cases have brought renewed attention to the ongoing problem of domestic violence against women — and what should be done to stop it.

Despite increased awareness and improved law enforcement, women continue to be intimidated, beaten and killed by current and former partners. According to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, since 2000 at least 271 women in this state were killed by former or current husbands or boyfriends.

The organization always places “at least’’ before its annual ‘‘femicide” statistics because it relies on media reports to compile the figures, and some deaths may not be reported as being linked to domestic violence.

Better training for police and more shelters for battered women can be part of the solution. In addition, the communities that surround women — including friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers — should pay attention for signs of trouble and do what they can to help.

A recent column by the Star Tribune’s Gail Rosenblum described the “Ask to Help’’ initiative of Cornerstone, a metro-area agency that is working to end domestic violence. The Ask to Help website offers suggestions on how to talk to women who you suspect are being abused.

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women website also offers advice about how friends and others can identify signs that someone may be in danger, including “lethality signals” such as violent histories, substance abuse problems, controlling behavior, and stalking or isolating victims.

The coalition lists 90 member groups and agencies and a list of names and numbers of resources across the state. Friends can help guide victims to resources they need in nonjudgmental, supportive ways.

Understand that for some in abusive relationships, it’s not easy to ‘‘just leave’’ the abuser. Emotional or financial dependence or fears about what might happen to children leave some women feeling trapped.

In other cases, family histories of abuse keep women in violent relationships; to some, it can feel normal to experience physical or emotional abuse. But that pattern can be broken with effective support and counseling.

As experts point out, even when women do all the right things to end an abusive relationship, former partners may come after them months or years later.

That’s why it’s imperative that the communities that surround women pay attention to signs that the men in their lives may be troubled and pressure them to get help before their anger turns to assault or worse.

One of the best ways our community can honor the memory of those women lost to abuse is to protect others. Getting involved in safe, supportive ways can help save lives.

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An editorial of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Follow the editorial board: on Twitter  |  on Facebook   |  on Instagram | on Google+

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