Domestic violence taken more seriously
The judicial system is taking domestic violence more seriously than it has in the past generation or two, according to Steele County Attorney Dan McIntosh. However, he also said that domestic violence incidents continue to slightly increase.
“The perception of domestic violence is that it is just an internal matter or family matter, but we all realize there are some societal costs to domestic violence,” he said.
Methods for collecting evidence continue to improve, according to McIntosh. There are now digital recorders and digital cameras that increase the ability to document what goes on at the scene. “Officers are more in-tuned to how to deal with victims, but all of us in the system can use more on that,” he said. “It is a very difficult group because of the family dynamics and economic dynamics in the family.”
A domestic violence program was held in Owatonna on Saturday that included an opportunity for professionals and members of the public to learn more about domestic violence. It included a scenario presented by Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Shaun Floerke with the hope of helping those present better support, safety and accountability for people and families.
“This helps give people the ability to approach their work with some freshness,” Floerke said during an interview after the session. “It provides them the ability to look at it with new eyes or fresh eyes.”
Many categories of crimes have slowly decreased over the years, however, domestic violence-related cases are on a slow increase. “It is kind of bucking national trends of lowering crime rates,” McIntosh said. “All of our sentencing we try to strike a good balance between punishment and rehabilitation. We just don’t seem to hit the sweet spot of what the balance is with these offenders.”
Research also shows that there are usually a number of domestic violence incidents before there is a report. “There is usually an escalation of yelling and screaming, pushing and shoving and then a real serious assault,” McIntosh said.
Chemical use also seems to be a factor in domestic violence.
Domestic violence laws have toughened since 2007 when the Minnesota State Legislature created a new felony crime by strangulation that doesn’t require any prior conviction. “Just on its own, it is a felony,” McIntosh said.
The legislature also created the domestic abuse on contact order that can be enhanced to a felony if there is a prior conviction. “The basic domestic violence case to get to a felony level still requires two prior convictions within 10 years,” McIntosh said. “That is where you get some of the frustration from law enforcement and a prosecutor is it just takes a long time to get some real teeth in it.”