Nelsen: Domestic violence still an issue in Mower County

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen speaks about domestic violence issues to the Zonta Club of Austin Tuesday at Sterling State Bank. -- Trey Mewes

Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen speaks about domestic violence issues to the Zonta Club of Austin Tuesday at Sterling State Bank. — Trey Mewes

If there’s one thing that can prevent domestic violence, it’s breaking the cycle between generations of residents who may grow up with violence in their home.

That’s what Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen told members of the Zonta Club of Austin Tuesday, as part of Zonta International’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

“Domestic violence isn’t about anger,” Nelsen told Zonta members. “It’s about power and control.”

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Nelsen has experience prosecuting domestic violence crimes. She was part of a domestic violence task force while working as a prosecutor in Las Vegas, and in her first year they had about 1,100 cases.

Nelsen said Mower County doesn’t have the resources to track how many domestic violence cases there are on a yearly basis, but she has seen a notable increase over the years, including more instances of domestic violence from former victims who now emulate behavior they saw while growing up at home.

“Now we’re seeing the second generation of victims and offenders,” Nelsen said.

Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence doesn’t just take place between spouses at home, though Nelsen said a majority of domestic violence cases in Mower County involve males who victimize females. Nelsen has seen an increase in stalking cases, where someone tracks their significant other’s whereabouts for a long period of time.

In addition, instances of dating violence and dating abuse has gone up as well. Nelsen said the attorney’s office is receiving more cases where someone spreads pictures or video of his or her ex-lover online, to so-called “revenge porn” websites or by social media to acquaintances and friends. This has been particularly prevalent among teenagers, according to Nelsen.

“Parents need to be aware of this,” she said

Groups like the Seibel Center — which allows parents to exchange children in a safe environment with no fear of abuse or escalating situations — have helped to decrease domestic violence cases somewhat, but Nelsen stressed that it’s incredibly difficult to stop domestic violence from happening, as spouses and significant others can often be coerced into recanting their stories in order to protect the offender.

“We’ll have women with broken bones who try to come in and recant,” she said.

Nelsen doesn’t have a clear answer as to how best to stop domestic violence, but she believes that educating children on domestic violence issues may help to decrease and stamp out domestic violence cases in the long run. Yet Nelsen made it plain her office could only do so much, as the county attorney’s office doesn’t have the funding for prevention programs.

Nelsen did highlight the domestic violence program Mower County Corrections has put in place in recent years, as she told Zonta members that 72 residents have gone through the program thus far.

Still, Nelsen said there is plenty to do to spread awareness about domestic violence within the community.

“Nobody should be a victim of violent crime and assault,” she said.