In Barnes County last year 720 people were victims of abuse. A total of 783 people in Barnes and surrounding counties. Of those, 638 adults and 38 children were victims of domestic violence. Another 31 adults were victims of sexual assault and 82 adults were victims of other types of abuse including terrorizing, assault, stalking, menacing and harassment According to the Abused Persons Outreach Center, Inc.
And those are just the cases that are reported. According to Michelle Grebel of the APOC domestic abuse is a silent crime because it’s so under-reported.
Forms of abuse go beyond physical violence. It includes psychological and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, destruction of property and pets, economic abuse, and threats and intimidation, according to APOC.
Every 15 seconds, somewhere a woman is battered and 95 percent of all abusers are men. About half of all women in the U.S. will be in an abusive relationship at some point.
Reports of domestic abuse do not increase during the holiday season. On the contrary, reports go down this time of year, but increase just after Christmas, when the spirit of the season is gone, and when the credit card bills start rolling in.
“Where there’s a high, there’s a low,” said Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin.
Abuse can happen to anyone, no matter what the victim’s socio-economic group.
“Abusive relationships are equal opportunity. No matter your age, your education, your lifestyle, or your religious or economic background, it can happen to anyone,” said Grebel.
For the size of the county, domestic violence calls are surprisingly regular, said McClaflin. And he sees a lot of repeat calls.
Many times it takes several incidents before a victim truly understands how dangerous the situation is, said Police Chief Fred Thompson.
Thompson doesn’t get a lot of domestic violence calls in Valley City, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. He is, however aware of the domestic violence cycle, he learned while he was with the Henderson, Nev. police department.
Sometimes, Thompson said, before the law was changed that allowed officers to arrest abusers without the need for the victim to press charges, he would respond to the same houses several times a day.
Victims remain with their abusers for many reasons, said Grebel; because abusers many times isolate victims from their friends and families; hope that things could change; guilt and shame; low self esteem; religious or community values; fear of being alone; or growing up in an abusive home, children from abusive homes are more likely to be abused as adults.
A big reason victims stay is fear. Domestic abuse is about control, said Grebel, and when the abused person attempts to leave, the abuser feels a loss of control. Leaving can be dangerous.
Another reason victims may not leave is in many cases, the victim may be dependent on the abuser for financial support, said Thompson.
Domestic abuse calls are dangerous, not just for the victim, but for the officers who respond, also. Statistically, responding to a domestic situation is one of the most dangerous things officers do, said Thompson. He has had to fight for his life during such a call in Henderson.
Both Valley City police officers and Barnes County Sheriff’s deputies are required to have more than one person present for safety during a domestic violence call.
When his officials respond to a domestic violence call, they refer the victim to APOC, unless the victim needs emergency housing, then they call APOC to come to the victim.
“They do a great job,” said McClaflin.
The Abused Persons Outreach Center offers free services to victims, including crisis intervention; medical, legal, and law enforcement advocacy; training for volunteers; public education; information and referral services; prevention materials; a resource library; resource library; self-help groups; and a short-term safe shelter. All services are confidential.
Victims of domestic abuse or anyone who suspects domestic abuse is encouraged to call APOC at 701-845-0072. A 24-hour crisis line is also available at 701-845-0072.