Saturday, November 27, 2021

It's time to address domestic violence

by Daily Inter Lake
| June 13, 2021 12:00 AM

In Montana, law enforcement officers responded to a domestic violence-related incident every 1.75 hours last year. Let that jaw-dropping statistic sink in for a moment.

The numbers linked to domestic violence statewide are sobering. In 2020, officers responded to nearly 5,000 partner and family member assault incidents. And over the last 20 years, more than 200 individuals have died in domestic-violence-related events in Montana.

The Daily Inter Lake today launches a special report about the challenges that exist in not only responding to domestic-violence incidents but also the weaknesses of a system that strives to do better for victims but often falls short. It's a system in which resources targeting the perpetrators of domestic abuse are lagging behind, and recidivism and limited effectiveness plague most batterers intervention programs.

Lundy Bancroft, a pioneer in the field of domestic violence, offered this insight in his book, "Why Does He Do That?" "Even the very best counselors give the same report: it is more common for abusers to stay the same or get worse than it is for them to make the kind of changes that bring qualitative improvements in the lives of their partners and children," Bancroft notes.

The family and friends of Emily and Piper Mohler and Emily's friend Cody Nevins know the shortcomings of protection for victims all too well. Emily, Piper and Cody were killed on June 30, 2020, by Emily's estranged, abusive husband Kameron Barge, who killed himself shortly after murdering his three victims.

Today, the family and friends of Emily and Piper Mohler, will hold a ceremony to remember their loved ones whose lives were cut so short. Their grief is still palpable. Comments from Emily's mother Jan hit at the heart of the problem. "Everyone seemed to know about her situation and this still happened," Jan reflected in her interview with the Inter Lake. "The people involved in her case should have all been aware that things were escalating."

The gathering today serves another purpose beyond sharing memories. The Mohlers want to remind people that domestic violence is an epidemic with deep roots in many Montana communities — one that demands more resources and attention.

Some strides have been made in addressing domestic violence, also known criminally as partner and family member assault. The addition of three victim advocates here in Flathead County is a good starting point. A new state law introduced by Kalispell legislator Frank Garner expands the use of electronic monitoring of people charged with the most serious domestic violence crimes. That's another step forward.

Domestic violence is a crime that often flourishes behind closed doors if not addressed. It will take a concentrated effort by all those involved to curb these kinds of assaults that, if not addressed, can turn deadly.