Domestic terrorism begins at home

In St. Paul, Kira Trevino is missing since February 24 and believed dead. Police charged her husband with murdering her. The body of 16-year-old Anna Lynn Hurd was found in a Maplewood park last weekend. Her 17-year-old boyfriend has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

On February 20, a Minnesota man pleaded guilty to repeatedly raping one 11-year-old girl in her rural South Dakota home in 2011-2012, while he lived with her family, and to sexually assaulting a second 11-year-old girl.

Sexual abuse and violence are not directed only at girls and women. Ruben Rosario’s courageous revelation of the abuse he suffered as a child was published this weekend.

“Today I need to tell you about a little boy,” Rosario wrote. “The little boy, no more than 7, knew what was coming when the orange drapes were drawn in the bedroom window of the ground-floor Bronx apartment on Hoe Avenue. It would be icky. It would be painful.”

According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, most children who are sexually assaulted are victims of family members and acquaintances.  About 27 percent are abused by family members and another 60 percent by acquaintances. (According to the report, “Females were more than six times as likely as males to be the victims of sexual assaults known to law enforcement agencies”) Again — read Ruben Rosario’s eloquent account of the “messier dynamics” of being abused by a family member, and the long-lasting consequences of abuse.

Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of Ravi Shankar recently revealed her story:

“As a child I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly,” she said. “Growing up like most women I know I suffered various forms of groping, touching and verbal abuse … that I didn’t know how to deal with. … And as a woman I find that I’m frequently living in fear, afraid to walk alone at night … and you know, enough is enough … so join me. Let’s rise together.”

On Valentine’s Day, a group called One Billion Rising staged events in the Twin Cities and around the world to protest, remember and support girls and women who are sexually assaulted. The name of the group comes from the estimate that one woman in three — one billion across the world — is raped or violently assaulted during her lifetime. Think that’s a high estimate? Think again … and ask the women you are closest to whether they know someone who has been raped or violently assaulted.

Rape and domestic abuse are domestic terrorism. They create fear and terror, difficulties in trust, and psychological scars that often last for a lifetime.

This week, Congress finally renewed the Violence Against Women Act over strong Republican opposition. VAWA, as it’s commonly known, gives support for investigation and prosecution of domestic violence (and yes, men are included, too), as well as funding some counseling and support for victims. In the version just passed by Congress, that protection is extended to gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations, and undocumented immigrants.

Closer to home, Minnesota police are trying harder to reach out to victims of domestic terrorism with a tool called the Lethality Assessment Project questionnaire. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi talked to the Star Tribune about a comprehensive approach that includes quicker assessment and charging. But that’s not always enough:

“When we are responding to a domestic situation, we apply these new principles and practices,” he said. “But we never had a chance in the Trevino case, because there was never an interaction between this couple and law enforcement.”

If someone is leaving an abusive relationship, they need help. Today’s Star Tribune article quotes Shelley Johnson Cline, executive director of the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project: “When a victim decides to leave an abusive situation, she is at a 75 percent greater risk of being seriously injured or killed by the perpetrator because he has lost all control.”

That’s true — and it means that each one of us is on the front line, in a position to help stop the domestic terrorism of rape and abuse. The one billion victims include people we know. The first step is to be the friend or relative who will listen. And then we need to say two things loud and clear:

You are not to blame.

And there is help.

Put these numbers where you can get them – on your computer, in your phone, on your refrigerator.

Day One – Minnesota’s domestic violence crisis line 1.866.223.1111

St. Paul Intervention Project 24 hours a day at (651) 645-2824

Minneapolis Rape and Sexual Abuse Center 24 HOUR HELPLINE: (612) 825-4357

State map with list of resources in each area 


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