Simplified: Domestic violence is becoming more frequent and more severe in Sioux Falls. Victim advocates hope raising awareness and removing stigma will help reverse the trend.
Why it matters
- Domestic violence accounts for about 1 in every 9 cases in the State's Attorney's Office – a rate that's gone up over the last five years, according to data Minnehaha County State's Attorney Daniel Haggar shared with Sioux Falls Simplified.
- Between 2018 and 2022, overall domestic assault arrests increased by more than 55%, according to Sioux Falls Police Department crime statistics. Felony arrests, specifically, went from 270 to 471 annually during that time period – a nearly 75% increase.
- That's also consistent with what Program Director Amy Carter is seeing at Children's Home Shelter for Family Safety, which last year opened a new building with double the beds it previously had available. Many of those new beds filled quickly – going from an average of 51 people per day a year ago to about 77 per day now.
"We have to keep educating, and we have to keep that awareness that this happens," Carter said. "People can't bury their heads in the sand and believe this isn't happening."
That's a lot of numbers. Tell me more about what's behind them.
Each of those numbers represents a person in our community who's been a victim of some type of abuse, often from an intimate partner, Haggar said.
As for why domestic violence is increasing, it's not an easy answer.
- In some ways, it's the natural cycle of violence, Carter said. It increases with severity and frequency over time.
"You're seeing people who are more willing to be more violent," Haggar said.
What's being done to help?
Minnehaha County is partners with about a dozen nonprofit agencies and organizations who support domestic violence victims.
That includes, of course, Children's Home Shelter, but it also involves wraparound support to ensure that people can get what they need to become independent – and, in turn, less likely to return to their abuser for lack of any other option.
- Victim-Witness Assistants like Anna Kirchenwitz help victims connect with resources for housing, protection orders, legal assistance, counseling and more.
- That's another place where partnerships play an important role, especially with housing assistance, the Furniture Mission, the Compass Center and more.
What are the unique challenges?
There's a lot of stigma surrounding domestic violence or assault by an intimate partner.
- There's also sometimes the idea that it's just a "family matter," Haggar said, and victims feel uncomfortable sharing their experience.
It's also challenging because relationships are inherently complicated, and people have a variety of reasons for why they might stay with a partner who abuses them.
And, it can be tough to prosecute cases without a victim's cooperation, which can also be a hurdle in many cases.
- That's one of the areas where Kirchenwitz and her colleagues can step in and offer help.
"The victim's not going to cooperate if they are left homeless or if they have no money or if they have no support," she said. "A lot of times they're also in a controlling relationship. They're like, this is his house, and I don't have anywhere to go ... they're basically uprooted."
How can I help?
The first step is awareness, Carter said.
"If someone comes to you, and they express this is happening, or if you have concerns, talk openly about it in an honest way and be nonjudgmental," she said. "Be that person that cared enough to ask, 'Hey, are you OK?'"
There's also a need for volunteers and/or donations to the nonprofits like the shelter who help people affected by domestic violence.
What if I am a victim in need of support?
You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
You can also call Children's Home Shelter for Family Safety (formerly Children's Inn) at their 24/7 line at 605-338-4880.
And if you fear for your safety or are in immediate danger, call 911.