This article contains information about domestic violence and sexual assault. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for free, 24/7 support. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call RAINN's national sexual assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for confidential support. 

MADISON, Wis. — While the Gabby Petito case has captured the nation’s attention, someone in Wisconsin dies from domestic violence-related causes every five days.

“It is pervasive, it happens more than people realize,” said Monique Minkens, executive director of End Abuse Wisconsin. 

“Her story has sensationalized domestic violence,” she said. “When things are sensationalized, it makes it seem like it's rare, but it's not as rare as people think it is.” 

Data from End Abuse Wisconsin’s annual report shows in 2020, a Wisconsinite died every five days due to partner or family violence. Those 68 total deaths include perpetrators, like if they died by suicide or were shot and killed by authorities. 

Meanwhile, 58 of those 68 deaths were victims of domestic violence who were killed. That’s a 52% jump from 2018. 

Minkens is aware of how most of those cases happened. 

“The details made my jaw drop,” she said, seeming to get a little emotional. “It took my breath away.” 

The pandemic was expected to lead to more abuse. 

“Most violence happens when there's a lack of resources when there is homelessness, when there is an addict when the joblessness rate increases. All of those things happened,” she said. “And we saw … things that were more intense, and more harmful.”

Sam Collier is the chairwoman for the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She’s the founder of TeamTeal365, a grassroots sexual violence organization. She’s a survivor herself. 

“One in three women that has been or will be sexually assaulted goes along really tightly with the one in four women that have been or will be dealing with domestic violence,” she said. 

Then, there's the obvious: most domestic violence homicides don't get nearly the kind of attention Petito's case did.

That's especially true for people of color. 

"It seems to me women of color and victims of color, they always get wrote out the script," Collier said.

Sometimes police are involved in these cases, and aware of violence. Other times, it’s never reported. But as in the Gabby Petito case, we also see police responding to domestic issues, only for someone to later die. 

Minkens wants to focus more on preventing that abuse in the first place. 

“Law enforcement or the criminal justice system was a part of the process in several of these cases, and people still were not kept safe,” she said. “While law enforcement may play a role in community safety, there are other avenues as well that we have to look at.” 

She said those avenues include economic equity, livable wages, affordable housing and adequate healthcare. 

“All those things we know can cause life stressors,” Minkens said. “And if you can reduce those stressors, and make sure that people are living their best lives, or putting things in place so people can live their best lives, I think that we would see a diminishing in numbers.” 

Collier and Minkens are passionate about preventing the abuse from happening.

“We need a shift in educating our community not to assault each other. Not for victims and survivors to be out on the lookout,” Collier said. “People need to not abuse. They need to not inflict violence.” 

Still, it’s an unfortunate reality that loved ones should be on the lookout for signs of potential abuse. 

When asked what she’d want to say to someone in crisis, Collier had an answer right away. 

“Pay attention to the red flags,” she said. “They don't lie.” 

If you’re looking out for a loved one, and you see some of those red flags, it’s hard to know what to do next. Minkens has been there. 

“I think about as a family member, that as a survivor, our family made all the wrong mistakes in the world we could’ve made,” she laughed. 

She said the push to get someone to leave, leave, leave can be overwhelming. 

“The question could be, 'What do you want to do? And how do I how can I help?'” 

Collier said everybody should take those red flags seriously. 

“That one time they call or they text and we don’t pick up, or we think it’s a joke, or they make a post on social media, not knowing that may be the last statement they ever make,” she said. 

For information on where to get help, click here

Editor's Note: Minkens has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.