Allamakee County Corner

by Robyn Carey-Dundee
Allamakee County Victim & Witness Coordinator

October is nationally known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Locally, you may see information regarding domestic violence in the media, on posters, or possibly an event or project sponsored by the Domestic Abuse Resource Center.  Domestic Violence affects a great deal of people,  not just the victims of the crime.
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that involves abuse by one person against another and can affect each and every one of us in ways we do not typically think of. If you have never been a victim, it is likely that you may work with someone, live next to someone, or may have someone you care deeply about that may be experiencing domestic violence.  Many victims of abuse suffer alone because they are too afraid to ask for help, feel ashamed or even blame themselves.
According to the last Iowa Attorney General’s Office Crime Victim Assistance Division Report, 259 people have been killed in domestic violence murders since January 1, 1995.
Thirty-three years ago this month, advocates and other concerned citizens gathered to recognize countless abuse victims who were murdered due to the crime of Domestic Violence. They also recognized and honored those who continue to survive the abuse but remain silent. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence deemed October as the month to approach local, state, and national levels of government to unite with them in their aspiration to prevent more deaths, injury and the harmful effects of violence.
At state level, in Des Moines there is a group of dedicated individuals who provide a comprehensive, nonprofit program that provides training, counseling, and outreach to any individual and all communities in the state of Iowa. They have provided these services since 1985. This particular organization, called the Iowa Coalition against Domestic Violence, also provides assistance to its members with education, program management, training and technical support.
Here in our area, a group of local individuals gathered together in 1994 to discuss their concerns and set a goal to end violence with the Northeast Iowa Coalition against Domestic Violence.      
Here at the Allamakee County Attorney’s Office, we see numerous cases of domestic violence and like the Iowa Coalition programs, we too share their concerns.  Sadly, in the past six months there have been approximately 14 cases of domestic violence reported in this county alone. Since July 1, 2014, there have been 12 cases of domestic violence reported to the County Attorney’s Office. Please keep in mind these are only the reported cases, as many, if not most, cases of domestic abuse go unreported.
To some it is very difficult to understand why someone who is being abused or experiencing violence would not seek help to end the abuse; however in many cases the victim is not able to reach out to anyone at all. Victims of domestic violence experience numerous emotions that prevent them from feeling like they can end or escape the violence.  Below is just a short list of reasons why a victim may feel powerless to make changes in their lives or to leave an abusive relationship.

Emotional Reasons for Staying In an Abusive Relationship
• Belief that the abusive partner will change because of the partner’s remorse and promises to never do it again.
• Fear of the abuser who threatens to kill the victim or harm the victim’s children, pets, or other loved ones if the abuse is reported.  
• Insecure feelings  about living alone.
• Lack of emotional support from others or no one believing the victim.
• Attachment to the partner the victim loves and cares for.
• Fear or intimidation of making major changes or leaving and starting all over.
• Feeling they are responsible for the abuse, shame or self-blame.
• Feeling helpless, hopeless and trapped.
• Belief that if the victim loves and cares enough, the partner will change, get help.

Situational Reasons to Stay
• Victim is economically dependent on the abuser.
• Fear of physical harm to self, children, pets, or loved ones.
• Fear of emotional damage to the children living without one parent.
• Fear of losing custody of the children because the abuser threatens to take the children if victim tries to leave.
• Lack of work skills or the ability to be financially independent.
• Social isolation and lack of support because abuser is often the victim’s only support system.
• Lack of information regarding helpful resources.
• Belief that law enforcement will not take the report seriously.
• Lack of affordable housing.
• Cultural or religious beliefs.
No matter what the reason is, the fact remains that many victims of domestic abuse continue to live with the abuse each and every day. Those who are able to find the courage to contact law enforcement and report the abuse do have legal rights.  The Allamakee County Attorney’s Office provides a program to assist any victim of serious crime. The Allamakee Victim Witness Program was established in 2009 and provides comprehensive services to victims of serious crime such as domestic abuse.
In Allamakee County all cases of domestic violence that are reported to the County Attorney are reviewed by County Attorney Jill Kistler along with her staff for prosecution. All victims of crimes classified as a serious misdemeanor or above are referred to the Victim Witness Coordinator. The Victim Witness Coordinator is available to offer services, provide referrals, and to answer general questions about the legal process.
In Iowa, any victim of a serious crime (classified as a serious misdemeanor or above) has lawful rights and one of those rights is to receive information on how the legal system typically works.   
The Allamakee County Victim Witness Coordinator program provides information on victimization, legal rights and protections, notifications, information on the criminal justice process, compensation programs for out of pocket expenses due to the crime, as well as emotional support and advocacy.   
All of us here at the Allamakee County Attorney’s Office understand how difficult it may be for victims of domestic violence to reach out for help. It is our hope that the Victim Witness Program offered by the County Attorney’s Office will offer helpful assistance to recover from the impact of crime.