Purple ribbons promote domestic violence awareness
By Eileen Persike
Driving through downtown Rhinelander, purple ribbons – 35 of them – call out to passersby from the lampposts lining Brown Street. The ribbons are shouting to everyone who sees them to Remember My Name. Each ribbon bears the name of one of Wisconsin’s 35 homicide victims from domestic violence in 2018.
“The 35 victims received threats of violence, threats to kill, experienced stalking, strangulation, obsessive jealousy and sexual assault,” said Melissa Kropidlowski, the domestic violence program coordinator for Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “If your partner says they’re going to kill you, believe them.”
This is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and every October Tri-County Council uses the designation to remind the community that domestic violence happens, and the victims are people.
Kropidlowski has worked as a victim advocate for about a decade and said on average, 400 people walk through the doors at Tri-County who are involved in some sort of domestic violence situation. She said she’s hearing that the violence is getting worse.
“More volatile, more dangerous, a lot more cruelty to animals, a lot of threats with weapons, especially firearms, knives – the kitchen is the most dangerous place during a domestic violence incident,” said Kropidlowski. “We know that whoever wants to get a hold of a gun is going to get a hold of a gun regardless of what the laws are.”
According an annual report on domestic violence homicides compiled by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, firearms were used in 65% of the homicides last year, despite 29% of the perpetrators being legally prohibited from owning a gun.
Locally, the agency has a legal advocate who follows every domestic violence case and every sexual assault case from the initial appearance through sentencing. Kropidlowski said she is pleased to see more domestic violence cases go through the court system.
“The victims are now saying, ‘I want this person to be finally held accountable for what they’ve been doing,’” she noted. “We know it’s probably not the first time that something has happened, it’s probably been a lot of times, but they’ve finally been pushed to the point of needing to call for help.”
In a perfect world, Kropidlowski admitted, there would be more accountability for the perpetrators.
“I think our court system does a great job and I understand that it’s set up to make agreements and make deals, but I think that when you see a deferred prosecution agreement it does sometimes send the wrong message to the victim,” she said, adding that it’s her job to advocate for the client. “It would be nice to see an ending where the person does even get some jail time.”
A community candlelight vigil will be held 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at the Oneida County Courthouse where the names of all 35 victims will be read aloud. Anyone interested in participating by reading a name can contact Kropidlowski at 715-362-6841.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence started the “Remember My Name” project together with Ms. Magazine in 1994 to create a national registry of names in effort to increase public awareness of domestic violence deaths. For more information on the domestic violence homicide report, visit www.endabusewi.org.