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Local agencies team up to end domestic violence | News, Sports, Jobs

By on October 15, 2022 0

(Editor’s note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month)

Domestic violence is not a new societal problem, but that does not mean that it has become easier to combat and ultimately eradicate. In Marshall County, multiple local agencies, from law enforcement to nonprofit victim resource groups, are working together to erase the stigma and prosecute offenders, and it remains one of the toughest issues. with which they are confronted.

Lt. Sadie Weekley of the Marshalltown Police Department said having a domestic violence/sexual assault detective, Kraig Lageschulte, was a big help.

“I think without this dedicated position, we wouldn’t have someone who is specifically trained to really review these cases the way we do,” Weekley said. “I think that helped. We have a very victim-centered approach to our domestic violence cases that we work on, so I think victims see it and survivors see it and once they’ve dealt with us once or heard how we deal with these cases, I think it makes you more comfortable and more able to come and report something that is sometimes very difficult to report.

While the fundamentals of investigating a domestic violence case haven’t changed, Weekley said connecting victims with agencies like ACCESS Shelter Services, which covers several counties in central Iowa, including Marshall, became a key target for the MPD.

“We’ve found that if we partner with ACCESS, we get better results, and our victims generally stay with us through the process longer if they have that advocacy,” she said.

Sue Tufke is a rural domestic violence advocate for ACCESS in Marshall and Tama counties, and she praised the partnership the organization has formed with both the MPD and the Marshall County District Attorney’s Office to help the victims.

“I think we work really well together,” she said.

ACCESS sends lawyers to spend time with victims in the hospital, provides emotional support during court hearings, and even offers shelter in Marshalltown and financial assistance for victims who need to move to a new residence.

Weekley also stressed the importance of trauma-informed interviews, taking follow-up photos, and making victims feel comfortable in their surroundings, as they may be going through one of the worst times in life. their life.

When a case comes to court, Assistant Marshall County District Attorney Sarah Tupper is often the one to prosecute it locally, and she said what she’s seen in the shifts in attitude across the board is something little mixed. Juries, she added, don’t necessarily have problems convicting when victims don’t cooperate or recant, but the classic “he said, she said” can make it difficult for jury members to know who to believe.

“I think Marshall County law enforcement is doing a very, very good job of investigating these crimes, so I’m not concerned that they’re charging crimes of domestic assault that didn’t actually happen. place,” Tupper said. “I feel confident and comfortable talking to a victim and determining if they back down because the pressure is on them, not that it didn’t actually happen.”

Although a national increase in domestic incidents and homicides has been widely reported across the state and nation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Weekley and Deputy William Parker of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office have said they believe the number of cases remains fairly stable. locally.

“Seeing this increase in the state is obviously concerning, but luckily it hasn’t really hit home in Marshalltown,” Weekley said.

Tupper said he noticed a slight increase after the 2018 tornado because people were generally stressed. The county attorney’s office has two grant-funded special prosecutors dedicated to domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Parker said cases often go unreported for fear of retaliation or ruined lives, but the MCSO is doing its best to investigate and prosecute those who do arrive – in 2020 they responded to 83 calls, and in 2021 , the number has increased slightly to 90 So far in 2022, however, only 53 incidents have been reported.

According to county law enforcement, domestic situations can be particularly perilous in rural areas if an officer enters without backup, as it could be up to 15 to 20 minutes if it gets worse.

“Domestic situations are always highly publicized. Violence is likely already happening or about to happen, and due diligence is absolutely necessary,” Parker said.

Weekley also pointed out some of what she considers to be the most common misconceptions about domestic violence: that it only affects people of a certain socioeconomic status and that all victims should leave immediately. their attackers, which can sometimes escalate the situation to an even worse result. .

“They care about these people, and sometimes the victim feels like it’s almost safer for them to stay because we see the statistics that a lot of these domestic violence homicides happen soon after a breakup. “, said Weekley. “It’s sometimes difficult, even for law enforcement, to understand that.”

Tufke and Tupper offered similar assessments, noting how difficult it can be to escape abusive situations.

“I just want everyone to know, do your best to support the people who are going through this. We all tend to think we know better, you have to go, you have to do it, but we don’t always know. The thing is, it’s all about power and control, and when they lose that power, it’s very, very scary for that individual,” Tufke said. “It really can happen to anyone.”

In evidence of cooperation among agencies in the area, the Marshall County Domestic Violence Coalition has recently rebooted in recent weeks, and people from several local organizations attended Tuesday’s board of oversight meeting for the approval of a proclamation recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. .


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or [email protected]

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