Domestic violence homicides in Wisconsin reached a record high in 2009, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Fifty-two people were killed in 47 domestic violence incidents last year. In addition, 15 perpetrators took their own lives, according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The 67 deaths also mark an all-time high since the group started tracking deaths 10 years ago. Anecdotal evidence the group has collected indicates the upward trend is continuing this year.
“It appears to be tied to the economy,” said the coalition’s Tony Gibart. Some victims have not been able to leave their relationships because they don’t have the money to do so. More abusive spouses have been spending their days at home due to unemployment, leaving victims fewer opportunities to get away. At the same time, police, prosecutors, and social service agencies have fewer financial resources to help victims. The Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report shows that in 45 percent of the fatal incidents there was a known history of domestic violence. Domestic violence killings represented 36 percent of the 144 homicides in the state last year. In many cases in which the perpetrator had a history of arrests for domestic abuse, earlier charges – including battery, violating a restraining order or intimidating a witness – had been dismissed or reduced to disorderly conduct. A domestic violence conviction prohibits the defendant from having a gun under federal law, but a disorderly conduct charge does not.