SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — A young mother is dead and her 5-year-old daughter is fighting for her life in a Spokane hospital. This devastating death and assault may show a trend in an increase in intimate partner violence, according to YWCA Spokane.
On Sunday, Spokane Police say they found a deceased woman and her severely injured child. The family identified the woman as Kassie and her daughter Lily. Relatives of the two say Kassie had just left her fiancé and that the suspect is her ex. The suspect was discovered at the scene, locked in their North Spokane garage with the car running.
Before the pandemic began, Spokane County had the highest rate of domestic violence in Washington, being a few points higher than the state average, according to a 2019 study done by the Women Helping Women Fund and Spokane Regional Health District.
"Spokane County’s rate of domestic violence was significantly higher than the state’s at 10.4 offenses per 1,000 people," the report said.
In 2019, Washington state's average was 7.4 per 1,000, the study also showed. Advocates said the pandemic has only made the issue worse.
"Isolation and domestic violence go hand in hand," YWCA Spokane Education and Outreach Advocate Jemma Riedel said. "It just makes it that much harder to kind of leave a relationship like that."
YWCA is a non-profit that empowers survivors of abuse. Riedel said the pandemic may have led to an increase in violence.
Calls to YWCA's helpline increased more than a 40% in 2020, she said. The number of calls went from an average of 3,500 in 2019 to 5,000 in 2020, she added.
"When a person is isolated, they don't have that support system, they don't have those regular kind of touch points with folks that they would normally see — coworkers, whoever," she said. "With financial instability, increased stress, time at home together, all those things are huge factors."
Riedell is a proponent of education and believes that domestic violence is a cycle and can be stopped. This echoes a quote from Judy Chen, the Director of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who said "domestic violence is 100% preventable."
The community can help prevent domestic violence before it even occurs by continuing to promote awareness, she added.
"If we live in a household and we're not really seeing what productive, healthy boundaries in a relationship look like, we don't know that that's what we should expect or deserve," she said. "Then we could go on to experience unhealthy relationships and it kind of sets the standard."
The YWCA brings education in to have those conversations with people of all ages, but especially with younger people who maybe are in their first relationship. Having a discussion about what is okay and what isn't okay ahead of time can help prevent slipping into a more abusive relationship, she added.
"The most dangerous time for a survivor is when they go to leave or right after they've left a relationship," she said. "They're 70 times more likely to be murdered by their ex-partner after they leave, than any other point in their relationship."
More than half of female homicide victims were killed by their partners, according to a 2017 study done by the CDC.
With an increase in calls and an increase in police domestic violence reports, Riedel wanted to let survivors know that they are not alone.
"If you place that helpline call, an advocate will answer and can either connect you to other resources if you know what you're looking for, or can help you safety plan in the moment if that's what you need," she said. "Sometimes even having somebody there to listen to your story is really powerful for survivors."
The hotline is also for loved ones, so anyone can get information about how they can help. Riedel said the most important thing allies can do to support their survivor is to stay there for them and let them know they aren't alone.
How to get help
- Phone: 509-326-2255
- Text: 509-220-3725
- Email: email@example.com
- Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Team phone line: 509-477-3656
- Spokane Lutheran Community Services for non-intimate relationships phone/text line: 509-624-7273
- Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition