Heather Severson discovered that people who commit certain crimes in Wisconsin, like drunken driving, can face escalating charges if they re-offend and eventually can be charged as felons. But people who commit multiple domestic violence crimes don’t face similar repercussions. At Severson’s urging, State Rep. Al Ott, R-Forest Junction, has introduced a bill that would elevate a third domestic abuse charge that occurs within a 10-year period to a felony.
Severson and other women working on the issue formed TraJa, a nonprofit organization that works to train and educate people about domestic violence.
The women researched the 67 domestic violence homicides in Wisconsin in 2009 and found that some of the worst offenders had numerous prior offenses. “They are progressively getting more and more violent,” Severson said. The women also learned that while Wisconsin, with a population of 5.7 million people, had 67 domestic violence homicides in 2009, Minnesota, with a population of 5.3 million, had 25 domestic murders. And Minnesota allows third-offense domestic violence cases to be charged as felonies.