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Big Sky Connection


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The Montana Department of Justice is reporting its findings on domestic violence deaths to a state legislative committee today. (Justin Brockie/Flickr)


Eric Tegethoff

January 29, 2018

HELENA, Mont. - Deaths from domestic violence are increasing across the state, according to a Montana Department of Justice report.

Fatalities increased nearly 140 percent in 2015 and 2016, compared with the previous two years. 

For Native Americans, it jumped 150 percent over the same period. 

The Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commissions on Monday are presenting the findings to the Law and Justice Interim Committee in Helena. 

Matt Dale, the commissions' coordinator, says domestic violence is a prevalent crime.

"It's very unusual to be speaking to a group of people without someone in that group growing up in a family in which there was domestic violence, or they have a friend or a sister who's involved in a violent relationship, which does not mean at all that that person has reported it to police or gotten a restraining order," he states.

According to the research, 2016 was the deadliest in domestic violence since the state began keeping track in 2000, with 21 deaths. 

Since 2000, firearms have been used in three-quarters of deaths, and three-quarters of perpetrators have been men.

Dale says Montana communities are developing teams involving law enforcement agencies and county attorney's offices to identify high-risk individuals and situations to prevent domestic violence deaths before they happen.

"All of the agencies that might be involved with either the perpetrator or the victim of domestic violence meet to try to identify ahead of time who are the perpetrators that these cases seem to be pointing towards a higher level of lethality," he explains.

The report also suggests that mental health professionals screen for domestic violence. 

Dale says Montana is partnering on prevention methods with Arizona, where judges use a seven-question assessment when setting bail for people who have been arrested for domestic violence. 

Dale encourages people who are in an abusive relationship to seek help.



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