Iowa nonprofits: decrease in domestic violence deaths not whole story

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Fewer Iowans are dying in incidents of domestic violence this year, according to a report the Iowa Attorney General’s office released earlier this week.

The report states in the first eight months of this year, 12 people died as a result of domestic violence. For the same period in 2021, 17 people died. The total for that year was 20.

However, leaders in two local nonprofits said their organizations have seen an increase in domestic violence and a need for services.

Nicole Fens, Crisis Services Director of the Dubuque Y’s Women’s Emergency Shelter, said they have already served more people so far this year than they did the entirety of last year.

“We have nearly tripled the amount of crisis line calls that we’ve received this year,” said Fens.

Alta Medea, Director of Community Engagement with Domestic Violence Intervention Program, said something similar. “We’ve seen anywhere from doubling to tripling over the past couple of years.”

The reports of increased demand beg the question of “why?” One answer is help is easier to access now than during years dominated by the pandemic.

“This deadly virus, the thought of spreading the virus or getting sick yourself, oftentimes was more of a safety risk for them—a presumed safety risk for them— than the abuse that they were enduring itself,“ said Fens.

She added that many were left to calculate whether a new virus or an abusive situation were the lesser of two evils.

“You could potentially still report, but reporting on your abuser while you’re also going to stay in the home, as you can imagine, is a very dangerous combination, one that most people don’t choose to do,“ said Fens.

She added, “Now that services are accessible in a way that they haven’t been for almost two years, we are seeing people try to find safety.”

There will be a candlelight vigil honoring survivors as well as those who lost their lives to domestic violence. It will be at 6:00 p.m. at Washington Park in Dubuque. You can find more information here.