Consider the numbers. Between 2006-2016, 80 percent of women murdered in Minnesota were killed by a current or former intimate partner, and most were killed in their homes, according to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. (It’s important to note that all genders can be victims of domestic violence.)
Each October, the City of Maple Grove brings light to an important issue. Purple lights shine brightly over the trees at the main entrance of the city’s public safety facility and in the Town Green to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “The purple lights are a symbol that the community takes a stand against domestic violence, shows the victims that they have a voice and that the city is listening,” says police Sgt. Tanya Petz, who supervises the Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT). “It offers support and resources for survivors, remembers the victims and encourages open dialogue about the topic,” she says.
The purple lights initiative began in October 2017 after the city’s police department was approached by the Domestic Violence Action and Awareness program of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. The goal of the initiative is to provide a visual presence that might encourage more people to talk about this difficult issue and to let survivors know that they were not alone.
According to the 2017 Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women’s Femicide Report, at least 24 Minnesotans were killed in 2017 due to violence from a current or former intimate partner (at least three men died from domestic violence in 2015). Safe Haven, a resource center and shelter in Duluth, says that domestic violence victims account for 25 percent of the state’s violent crimes (It’s estimated that 80 percent of the domestic assaults go unreported); and about 35 percent of all Minnesota law enforcement calls are for domestic disputes.
In recent years, the Maple Grove Police Department has worked to become a better resource to survivors of domestic violence. “While domestic violence investigations have always been a priority for the department, in 2017, we made significant changes in the way officers respond to and investigate these calls,” Sgt. Petz says. This involved adding additional training for responding to domestic violence; implementing lethality assessments; streamlining report processing; forming the DVRT; building a stronger relationship with Cornerstone, a victim service organization; and working with city and county attorneys for prosecution.
This year, several other community locations plan to take part in the purple lights initiative, including the Anoka Country Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Ramsey, Brooklyn Park, Champlin and Crystal. Additionally, Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner will present a Domestic Violence Proclamation to the City Council, and members of the DVRT will attend educational domestic violence-related events in the community.
For those looking to help out with the purple lights initiative, Sgt. Petz recommends spreading the word. “Buy a purple light bulb, and put it on your house. When your neighbors ask about it, tell them about the initiative,” she says.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, call 9-1-1. Additional resources can be obtained by contacting:
Maple Grove Police Department
Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline
952.884.0330 or cornerstonemn.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
Domestic Abuse Project