Each year, thousands of Iowans are "branded" by a description they never sought – or never thought they would receive. They also learned first hand, the ins and outs of a judicial system that they previously had not experienced.
They are individuals who became victims of crime. The numbers may be surprising. For example, in 2008 – of 76 murders in the state, there were 653 friends and families of those murder victims who sought counseling to deal with the grief and stress of the untimely, violent death of a loved one.
Whether they lost a loved one to murder, or have been victims of rape, robbery or domestic violence there are many programs in different parts of the state to help address victims' needs. Services include counseling, finding emergency shelter for victims and being a victim's advocate when they deal with law enforcement and the judicial system.
There is also a state program that pays compensation to victims who incurred medical expenses or loss of income due to a crime.
The costs and challenges are many, as seen in a visit with a central Iowa woman about a violent domestic assault.
Kim, victim domestic violence: "I wasn't really fearful of him ever except that night."
On July fourth 2009, Kim was brutally attacked by her partner of two years. The couple has a child together. Their daughter Kennedy was just five weeks old at the time. When Kim first told her boyfriend she was pregnant, he agreed to stop drinking alcohol. So on the evening of the assault, when Kim returned home from running errands, she was surprised to find he was intoxicated.
Kim, victim domestic violence: "He was over three times the legal limit that night. He was falling all over the place, yelling at me, screaming at me, swearing at me, calling me every name in the book. You don't even know, and I was like please, let me get the baby to sleep."
After the baby was put in her crib Kim said her partner grew more violent.
Kim, victim domestic violence: "That's when he grabbed me and pulled me to the ground and the next thing I remember -- I remember waking up to him -- I don't even remember being out, but I -- I remember him being on top of me and choking me. For some reason, some how I got my legs up underneath -- like brought them up and pushed him off me and when I turned around and came up to my -- my kitchen counter that's when I saw my knife set. I kept -- because I kept thinking on the ground this is it Kim. This is it. You're -- this is -- you're done. I thought I'll just threaten him. Just threaten him just so I can get to the baby. Just so I can get to her and get out of the house and I grabbed the knife and I said please, I will protect myself. Please don't come near me. I asked him three or four different times to please stay away and he lunged into it. It pierced his heart, his lung, and another-- another muscle."
"It's haunted me like, I felt like I was in hell at that moment. Every emotion, every bit of I -- consumed despair right there. I just thought oh, my god what have I done and why did it come to this?"
Local law enforcement determined Kim had acted in self defense. Her partner pled guilty to domestic abuse, so the case did not go to trial. While Kim was spared the emotional stress of reliving her experience by having to testify in court, she was physically and emotionally battered and needed help. That help came from Mason City Crisis Intervention Service.
Mary Ingham, executive director Crisis Intervention Service: "Kim came to shelter because of the Mason City Police Department. They referred her to shelter, referred her to our advocates. The night that she was assaulted we had an advocate respond to the police department to provide immediate support to her and her infant child."
Crisis Intervention Service is a private, non-profit organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. With a staff of 17, the organization serves eight counties in north- central Iowa. They offer 24 hour services including a crisis line, counseling, prevention education, emergency response and shelter.
Mary Ingham, executive director Crisis Intervention Service: "When I started this work I thought most of what we would be doing is counseling people about domestic violence and sexual assault and the trauma and that's a huge part of what we do. But I think the finding resources for victims, helping them do some economic planning is what victims are really needing to be safe, and that's how we've had to adapt over the years, because that's what victims needed."
Staff at Crisis Intervention provided a temporary home for Kim at a shelter. They provided child care and counseling while Kim began the process of healing. They helped her find a home and assisted with rental and utility deposits, as well as provided some of the furnishings. They also connected Kim to other programs that help with some living expenses; eventually Kim hopes to gain financial independence and is seeking employment as a hair stylist.
Kim, victim domestic violence: "That's my next step is to get a job and I've applied. So, we'll see what happens and after that I'd like to get a car. So, then I can get her to the doctors. It's hard, you know, starting all over again."
Re-building a life for her and her baby is just one of her many monumental tasks. Although Kim looks towards a brighter future her past still haunts her? Kim worries most about the safety of her child whose father, she no longer trusts.
Kim, victim domestic violence: "I'm protected right now. I've got a no-contact order so he cannot -- he cannot take her from me and see her. But who knows when those run out."
Mary Ingham, executive director Crisis Intervention Service: "We continue to see our client numbers escalate every year. Last year we actually saw 28% increase in clients which is the largest increase I've seen in lifetime at the agency. I think a lot of that has to do with the economy and more and more family struggling and also greater awareness of people reaching out for services."