When most people think of the Wisconsin, it’s unlikely that the first thing that comes to mind is crime rates. The state has something of a quiet reputation- it’s more likely to bring to mind cheese, beer, cow-tipping, and football than violent crime. But a recent report conducted by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin has shown that domestic violence homicides are on the rise. In 2016, according to the report, 73 people were killed in domestic disputes. This is the highest that rate has been since 2000, the year the organization was founded. According to the organization’s statistics, 82% of the murders were committed by men.

According to these Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers, homicides are one of the most difficult crimes out there for police to investigate. Identifying the exact trends that lead to murders can be difficult to do. The organization has noticed several trends among houses where domestic murders are committed, but it’s difficult to definitively say anything based on them. First, they have noticed that the households that have problems with domestic violence are also often having trouble with money. The stress that comes with being unable to support the family financially, and the worries about the future that causes, can often lead people to lash out. Wisconsin especially is a state that has recently struggled with financial issues following the 2008 housing crisis. Many families are still wondering if they’ll ever be able to get back on their feet.

Another major possible risk factor for domestic homicide is gun ownership. In almost all of the cases looked at by the study, a gun was used as the murder weapon. Across the country, households that own guns have been shown to have consistently higher rates of suicide and domestic homicide. Also, in Wisconsin, there are very limited background checks needed for gun ownership. Only certain sales need to be accompanied by a check. And the 48 hour waiting period that was mandatory for buying a gun has also been repealed. Some people in the End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin organization express concerns over the ramifications of this, both for domestic violence and general safety in the state. According to their research, if a survivor of domestic abuse returns to a house with a gun, she is five times more likely to be killed than in a household that is gun-free.

The organization received increased funding from the governor of Wisconsin for its purpose and has been working with law enforcement to predict and prevent instances of abuse. The associate director of the organization, Tony Wilkin Gilbert, says that these homicides most often occur in houses that have a history of repeated disturbances. Often, victims have asked out for help in their situation but been ignored.

This is a complex issue, but it’s also a vital one. We must do everything in our power to protect people who are living in harmful home environment. If someone seems like they may need help, be sure to talk to them. Keep an eye out for signs of abuse. This is a problem that cannot be tolerated.