Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), domestic violence “is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.” (

I have seen the effects of domestic violence through my work as a deputy state’s attorney and a family law attorney. It happens more often than most of us are aware, and its effects are devastating. The statistics are alarming. Numbers this high tell us that someone you know is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

-1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

-33.7% of South Dakota women and 30.2% of South Dakota men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking.

-Nearly half of all women and men in the US have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.

-Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women.

-Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

-Between 2003 and 2012, approximately one-third of femicides were related to domestic violence.

-72% of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.

-Although American Indians comprise less than 9% of the population of South Dakota, they accounted for over 26% of victims/survivors of reported forcible rapes in 2012.

-On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, approximately 15 calls every minute.

-Up to 10 million children witness some for of domestic violence annually.

When talking about domestic violence we also need to speak about firearms and the role they play in domestic violence situations.

Before I get started, I want to make something perfectly clear. As an attorney I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and as an individual I honor the 2nd amendment. I also believe that with explicit rights come implicit responsibilities. We have the responsibility to protect our vulnerable from people who are known to be dangerous or violent. These are statistics on the use of firearms in domestic abuse situations:

-Nearly two-thirds of South Dakota domestic violence homicides are committed with firearms.

-Abusers’ access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner femicide at least five-fold (500%).

-When firearms have been used in the most severe abuse incidents, the risk of intimate partner femicide increases 41-fold (4,100%).

-As of December 31, 2015, South Dakota had submitted no domestic violence misdemeanor and no active protective order records to the NICS Index. (This prevents convictions/active protection orders from showing up on background checks when abusers purchase firearms)

We cannot protect victims and survivors without acknowledging that there is an issue here. We should be asking are there changes South Dakota can make that will save lives without negatively affecting responsible gun ownership? To honor the victims, we should at least ask the question and consider it in a meaningful way.

If you are unsure about the safety of your current situation you can compare your situation to an Abuse Index by filling out the following questionnaire:

If you are in danger call 911, call the South Dakota Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.430.SAFE (7233), or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE(7233).

If you are leaving your abuser and need to find a shelter look here:

I have witnessed our laws in South Dakota fail victims of domestic violence. I have also witnessed our legislature’s attempt to make it more difficult for victims of domestic violence and stalking to obtain protection orders in the last legislative session. We need to focus on protecting victims and not their abusers. The statistics speak for themselves.

Stats from NCADV and the Compass Center

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