Editors note: The Women’s Shelter and Support Center in Rochester’s 24/7 Crisis Line can be reached at 507-285-1010. Olmsted County Victim Services’ 24/7 Crisis Line can be reached at 507-286-0636. The statewide Minnesota Day One Crisis Line can be reached at 1-866-223-1111 by phone, or 612-399-9995 by text.

Twenty-eight women, children and men died of violence inflicted by their partners in 2020. The oldest was a 72-year-old woman. The youngest were three children under the age of 2. Four were pregnant. Approximately half were shot to death.

The staggering numbers were presented as part of the virtual Intimate Partner Homicide Memorial hosted by Violence Free Minnesota Tuesday afternoon.

"This memorial is an opportunity for victim's family and friends, advocates, systems professionals and elected officials to connect in grief and hope," said Becky Smith, of the statewide coalition Violence Free Minnesota. "It is our sincere intention to use this platform and the voices of advocates and elected officials to honor your loved one as we work toward a world free of violence, harm and fear."

(Post Bulletin screenshot from Violence Free Minnesota virtual memorial ceremony)
(Post Bulletin screenshot from Violence Free Minnesota virtual memorial ceremony)

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The event brings those who have lost a family member or friend to intimate partner violence together with policy and change makers in the state to not only honor those who have been killed, but to work toward systemic change to create a violence-free Minnesota.

Violence Free Minnesota is statewide coalition of more than 90 member programs working to end relationship abuse, create safety, and achieve social justice for all. The coalition also produces a yearly report of known instances of intimate partner homicides.

"After more than 30 years of producing the homicide report and now 10 years of gathering people together to host this memorial, we remember the 733 people who have been killed in Minnesota since 1989 due to intimate partner violence," Smith said. "Each day we carry them with us in our hearts and minds as we work to compel policy forward."

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said the budget presented Tuesday by her and Gov. Tim Walz includes money to fund additional grants for victim and survivor programs as well as funding to establish a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women office at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Both Flanagan and Sen. Mary Kunesh-Podein spoke of the disproportional impact domestic violence has on women of color and Indigenous women.

(Post Bulletin screenshot from Violence Free Minnesota virtual memorial ceremony)
(Post Bulletin screenshot from Violence Free Minnesota virtual memorial ceremony)

Related Story: Minnesota MMIW report confirms disproportionate rates of violence against Native women, girls

Artyce Thomas, executive director, Women’s Shelter and Support Center in Rochester, spoke about her experience losing a friend and neighbor to intimate partner violence. The woman's death, at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, took Thomas many years to process and heal.

"Today we gather to remember the lives of those we lost to domestic violence. We honor their legacies and we celebrate all that embodied them, all that made them great and all that made them ours," Thomas said. "Throughout my 20-year career, I have learned how vital domestic violence programming actually is for so many. I have also come to know that no one should never be made to feel threatened or unsafe in their own home. Domestic violence programs throughout Minnesota and our nation are that soft place to land for so many victims and survivors."

A vehicle processional was held before the virtual ceremony in downtown St. Paul with cars adorned with purple ribbons to represent each of Minnesota’s 28 victims who were killed in 2020.

Among the list were Rochester resident Keona Sade Foote and her daughter, 2-year-old Miyona Williams. Foote was pregnant at the time of her murder. Also listed was 15-year-old Julio Cesar Rodriguez who died as a result of a stab wound he suffered while trying to protect his mother in their Austin home.