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Domestic violence cases increase in Montana

Posted: Oct 30, 2013 4:10 PM by Victoria Fregoso – Q2 News
Updated: Oct 31, 2013 7:03 PM

Part one of a special report on domestic violence-

The call comes in to the Yellowstone County Emergency Dispatch: “My mom and dad are fighting and I’m really scared.”

A cry for help.

The Billings Police Department receives more than 500 calls like this every year.

And reports by the Montana Board of Crime Control show there were 4,379 cases of domestic violence across the state last year.

It’s an upward trend, with domestic violence cases growing from 3,849 in 2011. The year before that there were 3,070 such cases.

Former victim and domestic violence survivor Jamie Rindahl knows exactly how it feels.

“I was pregnant, (and) he would throw me down the stairs,” Rindahl said. “He’d kick me, throw me around.”

That’s just part of what she endured during an abusive on-again, off-again 9-year relationship.

But even after she escaped, it didn’t stop.

“The recovery took a long time,” she said. “I had to have reconstructive surgery, counseling, just, everything under the sun. It was a long process. I still deal with a lot of it today.”

Now, she lives a much happier life.

Jamie’s story represents the small number of victims who take a stand, speak up and get help.

The number of victims who stay silent is much larger.

“It starts so gradually that they’ve almost come to normalize it as this is just part of the relationship,” said Officer Katie Nash, the domestic violence investigator for the Billings Police Department. “For a lot of them it’s fear. They know that they may be hurt worse or in greater danger if they do reach out for help. And so for a lot of them, it can take being pushed with a pretty serious incident before they reach out.”

Nash deals with these cases first hand.

” We always hope that the victim will make a clean break as much as possible out of the relationship and can move on from there, and the offender would hopefully get the message that once that break is made that he needs to back off and not contact that victim,” she said.

As demoralizing as it is, the result of domestic violence can be much, much worse.

Over the past five years, 33 victims of domestic violence in Montana have lost their lives.

The killer is usually their significant other.

The numbers continue to stack up as three more victims were killed this year. They were:

Ordean EngeBretson, 42 of Whitefish, who was shot and killed by his girlfriend.

Erica Yurian, 22 of Worden, was shot and killed by her boyfriend.

Cody Johnson, 25 of Kalispell, was allegedly pushed off of a cliff by his wife.

Domestic violence advocates who examine these cases say it is such a significant part of society that it’s hard for us to see these cases for what they really are.

“I think often times it’s easy to sort of make excuses or explain it away so that we think it won’t happen again or that it won’t happen to somebody we love,” said Erin Lambert, a domestic violence program manager at YWCA. “But it does happen, and it’s important to be aware that this is sort of the ultimate consequence of domestic violence.”

But how do we stop it? And is it even possible?

All questions our society is trying to answer.