Wausau area shooting brings issue of domestic violence to the forefront

Published: Mar. 30, 2017 at 6:31 PM CDT
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For many in the Wausau area community, before March 22, domestic violence was seen as a private issue.

"We don't want to think we could be at risk in our community,” said The Women’s Community Executive Director Jane Graham Jennings.

When calls initially came in, many people thought there had been a robbery. Over time, that was proven to not be the case. Suspected shooter Nengmy Vang is said to have shot and killed four people after a domestic violence incident with his wife.

"One of our biggest fears in the advocacy field when we have domestic violence homicides, is that victims are going to be afraid to ask for help. So this tragedy compounds that. We're afraid to ask for help, and also that people are going to be afraid to help people they know,” Graham Jennings said.

Now a new state program, Safe at Home, will provide abuse victims with a substitute address. When mail is sent to the address, it’s rerouted to Safe at Home, which will then forward it on to the actual address.

"The Safe at Home program is not intended to make anyone feel 100 percent safe, but it is that added level of security it provides, which is absolutely necessary for survivors across the state who will utilize this program,” said Senate Minority Leader Jen Shilling.

Graham Jennings said the added security can make all the difference to a victim.

"They can do things in a normal way that we want to all be able to throughout our world, without always looking over our shoulder and being afraid someone is going to find us,” Graham Jennings said.

The program begins Apr. 1. Those looking to sign up must first participate in safety planning with a trained victim service provider or community based advocate.

Victims can call 1-800-446-6564 to enroll.

With the issue of domestic violence still present in people’s minds, Graham Jennings had one final message for those who may be dealing with abuse themselves.

"Please don't be afraid to ask for help. What I know is no one can help you if no one knows what's going on."