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Recently, a tragic and horrifying event happened in our community, one I knew everyone would hear about. I kept waiting for our community to cry out over the loss of Kristen Bicking’s life, taken in such a brutal and terrible way. It never came. Still, I wait. There were no candlelight vigils, protests in the streets, or voices rising in the air, but there should have been. Kristen did not deserve to die the way she did at the hands of a man that had a history of using violence against her. Kristen could have been your daughter. Your sister. Your mother. Your cousin. Your best friend from elementary school. No matter your relationship to her – or any victim of homicide – we should all agree: no one deserves to die the way Kristen did.
Kristen is the 10th person murdered due to domestic violence this year in Minnesota. Last year at least 29 people were killed due to domestic violence in Minnesota. Each year, around half of the victims of domestic violence homicide are from rural areas and small towns, just like ours. Abuse is an isolating experience. Often, people who harm their partners try to keep them from interacting with family, friends, coworkers or anyone who might be trusting and supportive. When you are being harmed by someone who claims to care about you, isolated from people who could support you, many feelings can come up including shame, guilt, and hopelessness. Imagine being in that situation, only to have the people you see around town, at the grocery store and gas station, whispering and posting on social media “why does she stay?” or “why doesn’t she make different choices?” or “it can’t be that bad.”
Did you know that victims are at the most risk of being murdered by their partner when attempting to leave or right after leaving the relationship? Or that financial abuse – which happens in over 95% of abusive relationships – can prevent someone from making “different choices” because they do not have the money to create a safe living situation?
Our response, as neighbors who care about each other’s well-being, should be “why is he hurting her?” and “why doesn’t anyone stop him from harming her?” and “I believe her.” The question we should all be asking ourselves is, “how can I support her?”
I understand that it is easier to look away than acknowledge that someone in your community is being harmed by their partner. If we acknowledge it, it means we have the responsibility to do something about it. Of course, fear plays a huge role: fear that you could be hurt if you intervene and fear to look at the situation because you, yourself, might be a victim or someone who uses the same violence in your relationship. It is scary to acknowledge that the person who says they care about you is hurting you. It is scary to acknowledge that you are hurting someone when you know it is wrong and that people might judge and isolate you. However, saying domestic violence doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. It did not prevent Kristen from being murdered.
I want to be clear: victims and survivors of relationship abuse and domestic violence are not alone, no matter how alone they may feel. There is help available in the community 24/7 to provide support and help to victims of domestic violence. Advocates for Family Peace provides free and confidential services for those who need help or someone to talk to. You can reach out at 218-248-5512 or through the website www.stopdomesticabuse.org. Please know that you are not alone. It is not your fault. We believe you.
Kristen should be with us today, living her life, loved by family and friends. Remember her name. Remember her courage, her worth, and her value as a member of this community. We all have value and we all deserve to live without violence.