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New domestic violence assessment protocol aims to save lives

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CHIPPEWA FALLS (WQOW) - The Chippewa Falls Police Department and Family Support Center have teamed up to create a new lethality assessment protocol with the goal of preventing domestic violence-related homicides in the city.

According to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report the state saw 14 more deaths due to domestic violence in 2019 than the year before, with four of those in Chippewa County.

The four Chippewa County deaths were all at the hands of Ritchie German, who killed his mother, brother and nephew as well as a woman with whom his relationship is unclear.

Family Support Center Program Director Jeni H, who doesn't give their last name out to the public, said the new protocol will be used on any and all domestic violence calls.

A police officer will ask the victim a set of 11 screening questions to determine how at risk they are of being killed by a partner.

"The reality is for some people domestic violence truly does result in death, and it's a really scary and dangerous thing that we have to take seriously to be able to really think about how we can change these numbers at all," said Jeni.

Some of the screening questions people are asked include if they have been threatened, if there was a weapon involved, and if this is the first instance of violence or not. Chippewa Falls Police Officer Joan Mattheisen said asking these questions in private can be the key to saving a life.

"Especially when there is an offender that is arrested, that is the opportunity we can get resources to that victim immediately, 24/7, we will always have somebody on call that we can call to support them especially once we leave the initial scene," said Mattheisen.

The assessment protocol went into effect Thursday, which is also the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Family Support Center offers counseling, advocacy and an emergency shelter for those in need.

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Felicity Bosk

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