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Domestic violence expert offers safety advice

Erica Coyle

For many, the murder of 35-year-old Lauren DeWise in Belgrade on Sunday is another tragic reminder of how prevalent the issue of domestic violence is in our community.

Police reports claim Lauren DeWise left her husband Joseph DeWise to flee their abusive relationship. Joseph DeWise is now charged with her murder.

Haven, the domestic violence support center in Bozeman, says ending domestic abuse starts with each individual.

In the last two and a half years, Gallatin County law enforcement has responded to seven murders. Of those, six were domestic incidents and five involved intimate partners.

In order to stop the jump in domestic violence, Coyle said the community must do more. She said the biggest thing survivors need is support.

Coyle said, "Say to them ‘That’s not right. You don’t deserve that. That’s not a normal relationship and we can get you the resources you need.’"

If the person chooses to stay in the relationship, Coyle suggested doing safety planning.

"Safety planning includes going through the survivor's day and saying ‘what can you do to increase your safety on a day to day basis?" Coyle said.

When the time comes to leave, Coyle said to plan that too as it could be a very dangerous time.

"It could include things like packing a grab-and-go bag with important documents, a change of clothes or toiletries. Let a neighbor know if they ever hear anything to call 911," the director said.

For Coyle changing the number of deadly domestic violence incidents starts at the ground level.

"We need to be better bystanders. We need to speak up," she said.

Coyle has faith we can end domestic violence. She said, "I couldn't be in this line of work without hope."

Haven provides support for not just survivors but for friends and family who want to help too. They offer legal advocacy, emergency shelter and counseling. You can call their 24-hour emergency help line at 406-586-4611

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