Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Attorney: Domestic abuse problem hasn't changed in 25 years

Wabasha County Attorney Karrie Kelly speaks about the problems, dangers of and possible solutions to domestic abuse.

WABASHA — Wabasha County Attorney Karrie Kelly needs one word to sum up domestic abuse: insidious.

It affects so many people, but it's not often seen or talked about, she said. Many think that abuse is something best left inside families and not aired in public. Sometimes, victims blame themselves.

Yet Kelly and her staff members see the problem almost daily. The county gets about 100 cases of criminal abuse a year and screens more than 100 cases of abused children, which is another side of the same problem, she said.

She's been a prosecutor for 25 years and hasn't seen any big drops in the problem. "I look at our case load, it doesn't seem like it's improving," she said.

Her two most common types of cases are chemical abuse and domestic abuse.


"Those two are woven together," she said.

In many cases, abuse is a learned behavior and both abusers and victims think it's normal. And that makes is much harder to prosecute, she said. It's common to see a domestic case come up, then disappear once victims have time to think about shifting blame to themselves or worry about getting the abuser in trouble.

"Victims have learned that what they say doesn't make a difference and would be nothing without the perpetrator," Kelly said.

Abusers like to isolate their victims by taking their car or money. That makes it harder for victims to leave the relationship and reinforces that they are nothing, Kelly said.

She recalls a conviction against a man after someone saw and reported the abuse. But a year later, the same abuser was charged with abusing the same woman.

"There is so much overlap," she said. "You do walk away with the sense, 'I'm not doing any good, I'm just beating my head against the wall.'"

"As a society, we're so used to having other people have their privacy," she said. If people hear screaming or things breaking, they turn a deaf ear.

People say abuse is bad but hesitate reporting it. They fear others will shun them if they speak out.


Domestic abuse is also hard on police because the situations are unpredictable.

"It's just a crap shoot when those guys go out," Kelly said.

In a recent case, officers responded to a call about a man holding a woman hostage; he reportedly had a gun. When officers arrived, he ran out the back door and fired the gun.

"The whole situation escalated so quickly," Kelly said. "Luckily, he surrendered." The victim had told a friend about his plans, but the friend said nothing, she said.

Besides abuse directly affecting victims and their families, it ripples out, Kelly said. "I think of this as a more widespread issue than just the family unit," she said.

If children are upset, they act out in school, they make it harder for others to learn. Children of abusers tend to have more anxiety and depression, their grades deteriorate. Even babies get anxieties and other problems later in life when hearing the screaming, she said. "From the moment the child is born, we need to figure out how to stop it," she said.

What To Read Next
Get Local