DA: Domestic violence problem equal to drugs

DA says domestic violence, drugs not separate problems

While drug busts make headlines, the La Crosse County district attorney said domestic violence is just as big an issue in the community, if not bigger.

“We tend to focus a lot more on drug cases and drug busts, and those make the news more,” DA Tim Gruenke said. “But what we miss is a lot of the underlying reasons why people are turning to drugs and alcohol.”

Gruenke said his office prosecutes more crimes associated with domestic violence and sexual abuse than many people realize, and it contributes to many problems in the community.

“Long-lasting damage that happens from domestic violence and sexual assault is devastating,” he said. “It tears families apart, it ruins people’s lives and it has long-lasting effects … A lot like drugs, but they’re not separate problems. They’re very much linked in many, many cases.”

Ann Kappauf, the executive director of New Horizons Shelter and Outreach Center said domestic abuse survivors sometimes self-medicate.

“In order to continue through the life you’re living, sometimes victims will turn to drugs and-or alcohol,” she said.

And Gruenke said that can contribute to a cycle of crime.

“People miss the link that there’s a lot of people in the system that are there because of the domestic violence going on,” he said.

Kappauf said domestic abuse often stays in the shadows.

“I think it’s really hard for people to talk about,” she said. “I don’t think that people want to talk about something another human being inflicts on another human being.”

But she said even if it’s difficult to talk about, it’s important that it gets community attention.

“It’s important to bring it to the spotlight so we’re all working together to stop it, because that’s what it’s going to take,” Kappauf said.

“It’s still a community problem,” said Gruenke. “It’s not something that people can say, ‘We don’t need to worry about it,’ or ‘it’s not happening here,’ or ‘it’s not happening to me.’ It’s something that does affect people in ways they might not even expect.”

According to Gruenke, two of the eight county prosecutors focus on domestic violence and sexual abuse cases.

New Horizons Shelter and Outreach Center
La Crosse Crisis Line, 1-888-231-0066