A report by the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division shows there were 17 domestic violence deaths in the first nine months of 2021.
Division Director, Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, says that is the same amount in all of 2020. “That’s absolutely the first big concern that we see — we are once again at a higher rate than we have been historically — and with three months left to go in the year we are already at 17 domestic violence homicides,” Tibbetts Murphy says.
Tibbetts Murphy can’t say there is a direct link to the pandemic — but says it is an aggravating factor. “I certainly think the pandemic has made it much more difficult for those needing help to get access to it,” she says. “They really were forced to almost withdraw, so again, all of those supports were incredibly curtailed during the pandemic. So, I think that certainly can be a correlation with the rise in homicides.”
Tibbetts Murphy says the Victims of Crime Act or VOCA federal funding dropped nearly $18 million this year and that is also a concern. “Many of our programs rely on the VOCA funds for the majority of their budgets,” Tibbetts Murphy says. “And for a program to lose eight percent this year — but a potential 20 percent of their budget next year — could mean not only the elimination of services in some communities, the elimination of some jobs in communities, but even the closing of programs and shelters across the state.”
She says a fix is in the works to restore some of the funding, but it could take some time. Eleven of the 17 people killed so far this year have been women, and that has been the case since the statistics started being tracked in 1995. “It’s been so unfortunate that we can’t seem to solve that,” according to Tibbetts Murphy. “And that right now the most we can do is try to provide services and safety to victims so that they are able to make decisions about their planning and their lives in a way that is safe, or as safe as it can be. But the threat of that homicide is always there.”
Tibbetts Murphy says you should get help in dealing with your situation. “Our advice is always to seek the help of an advocate,. We have advocacy programs across the state. They provide services that are free and confidential. And they can work with victims to assess their needs, and assess their safety planning issues, and connect them with local resources that they may not know about or may not be able to access on their own.”
Some of the domestic violence resources available include the Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline at 800-770-1650. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 800-799-SAFE or 799-7233. You can text “START” to 88788. The Love is Respect Teen Dating Violence Hotline is 866-331-9474, or text “LOVEIS” to 22522. All services are free and confidential.
See the domestic violence report here: Domestic Violence Deaths 2021 PDF