If you walk down the street, chances are nearly everyone you ask will know someone who's been psychologically or physically abused. After five separate incidents of domestic violence-related homicides in Wis. in the past week, victims advocates and law enforcement are calling on you to help stop the cycle of abuse before it becomes too late for your own loved one, friend, neighbor or coworker.
"One of the things the general public tends to think, 'if she'd just leave, everything would be fine,'" said Jane Graham Jennings, the exec. dir. at The Women's Community in Wausau.
In general, society does point the finger at victims, blaming them for not getting out of an abusive relationship.
"We need to say, 'why does he think that's OK?'" Graham Jennings says the violence won't end until our attitude toward it changes.
"Some reports say up to 85 percent of homicides occur after a victim has left or when attempting to leave," Graham Jennings said.
Across the state, the latest data shows 58 people died from 39 domestic violence-related incidents in 2010. That averages to about 5 per month. Within just the last couple days, three women, three children and one man were murdered-- each person at the hands of a suspected male family member, partner or acquaintance. That report also includes the 18-year-old Marshfield woman, Maisie McCullough. Police believe the father of her 2-year-old son slit her throat and stabbed her in the back at his home on Blodgett St. in Marshfield.
"It's devastating," Graham Jennings said. But these number can also be a wake up call to communities across Wisconsin. Graham Jennings says the more we talk about it, the more lives we save.
"We still have this idea that it's none of my business," she said. "Make it your business. When you think something is awry, it is. Call the police."
"Sometimes it's the third party reporting that really helps us get into the situation," said Deputy Chief Bryan Hilts with the Wausau Police Dept.
Because of threats to their children, their own lives or their financial situation, many women are too afraid to tell anyone. That's why law enforcement say it's so important for coworkers, neighbors, friends to be their eyes and ears.
"In the state of Wis. there's a mandatory arrest law in place, so if there is violence during the actions officers are responding to, there is mandatory arrest, the primary aggressor will be taken into custory and transported to the local jail," Hilts said.
Victims then get a day or so to find some place safe to stay, like The Women's Community, while figuring out where to go from there.
"To think that that love is turned on you and used against you and you are afraid you are going to die from someone you love," Graham Jennings said. "It's really hard to fathom what that must feel like."
The general domestic violence numbers (taking into account abuse and not just homicide) is also startling. In Wis., there were nearly 30,000 cases of reported domestic violence.
It's also important to note that many children are affected, even if they aren't directly abused. In 2010, 12 were either orphaned or left without a mom. From this past week's list of murders, two 2-year-olds were left without their moms, and if their dads are convicted, they may grow up without any (biological) parents.