Officials remind public of domestic violence resources after weekend murder-suicide

MADISON, Wis. — As Madison police continue investigating a very public example of domestic violence in which a man murdered his wife on Sunday before taking his own life on the freeway, city officials are highlighting the local resources available to victims.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said Monday there weren’t any prior records of police contact involving the suspect or the victim. Officials have pointed to this, saying a lack of police calls isn’t uncommon.

RELATED: MPD: Woman killed by husband in west side home, husband kills self on interstate in murder-suicide

“It’s actually more typical that there aren’t prior reports,” said Aurielle Smith, Public Health Madison & Dane County’s director of policy planning and evaluation, which includes the city’s violence prevention unit. “A lot of times there aren’t telling indicators or signs that something might be going on. That’s why it’s so important for us to get the word out about available resources.”

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services is just one of the local resources available in southern Wisconsin. The executive director for DAIS, Shannon Barry, said it’s sometimes tough to know what domestic violence actually looks like and when a person should speak up.

“Domestic violence, unfortunately, continues to be a really stigmatizing issue for many folks,” Barry said. “We also know that domestic violence impacts one in four women and one in seven men at some point in their lifetime. So the reality is, it’s very common in every community, even here in Dane County.”

Barry referenced federal statistics that show less than a quarter of domestic violence is ever reported to law enforcement, meaning a majority of survivors rely on informal networks of support, such as friends, family or a community-based program like DAIS.

“We get a lot of calls on our 24-hour helpline from folks who are worried about someone in their life,” Barry said.

If you’re concerned about someone you know, Barry said to watch for changes in someone’s typical behavior and take note if they appear anxious or withdrawn, especially around a partner. When it comes to preventing another tragedy like what happened on Sunday, Barry said the best thing the community can do is realize anyone, anywhere, can be a victim of domestic violence.

“For many folks in the community, it may seem like a surprise when these things happen because it may not seem like that person or that family was potentially at risk,” Barry said. “But the reality is, it can really happen to anyone.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, the DAIS crisis hotline is confidential and available 24/7.  The number to call is (608) 251-4445 or (800) 747-4045.