Kansas domestic abuse crisis worsens during pandemic, needs strong response, advocates say

By: - October 23, 2021 9:00 am

Kathleen Marker, CEO of YWCA Northeast Kansas, third from the left, holds a sign calling for an end to preventable domestic violence. She was joined Friday in Topeka by about 75 other community members, advocates and lawmakers. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A leading advocate against domestic violence says instances of abuse continue to grow in frequency as COVID-19 isolates victims and limits resources.

Kathleen Marker, CEO of YWCA Northeast Kansas, said in the past three years, 14 of 55 homicides recorded by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation were the outcome of domestic violence. In addition, she said the suicide rate in Topeka was also concerningly high, increasing by as much as 140% in January.

Signs on the ground before Friday’s march and rally calling for action on the concerning number of domestic violence cases in Kansas. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Since the early months of the pandemic, domestic violence has spiked sharply in Kansas and across the country. In 2020, there were 281 cases of domestic violence in Shawnee County, more than double the number of cases reported in 2016.

Listening to the stories of survivors is one way to move forward, Marker said.

“We have to cultivate hope by uplifting the stories of courage and strength and resilience while taking concrete actions,” she said during a rally Friday at the Statehouse. “We have to correct the root causes of disparity in our community. We have to continue raising our voices and demanding a safer future for survivors today and every day.”

About 75 people gathered on the south steps of the Capitol to join Marker and others in demanding action to better address domestic violence and abuse. The gathering was part of a series of events in the YWCA’s Week Without Violence.

Rallygoers march Friday from the south steps of the Statehouse to the YWCA in Topeka. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Earlier this week, Kansas Reflector and KAKE News in Wichita published a collaborative investigative report demonstrating the extent of the domestic abuse epidemic in Sedgwick County, which had more offenses than those reported in Johnson, Wyandotte, Douglas, Leavenworth, Riley, Reno and Saline counties combined.

Among those whose lives have been jarred by a domestic violence-related homicide is LaTonya Boyd. On Oct. 13, 2009, her daughter, Tyesha McNair, was shot and killed by her ex-partner and abuser after she decided to leave the relationship.

Boyd has been a presence at the Statehouse in the years since, advocating for changes to limit potential or previous abusers from access to guns.

LaTonya Boyd says her daughter embodies the concerning realities of the domestic violence crisis laid bare by the pandemic. More than a decade after her daughter’s death, she is demanding protections from similar situations occurring with other young women. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

“Every day, I have to remember to get out of bed, put my pants on and do something positive, as my daughter would want me to live,” Boyd said. “We need to hold these abusers accountable for the actions that they commit, and we need to hold our lawmakers accountable for these laws that they have made or that they choose to make.”

House Bill 2251, which would have required relinquishment of firearms in instances of domestic violence, received a hearing in March, but the committee took no action on the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes said the passage of a different bill granting reciprocity for concealed carry licenses could prove deadly because gun laws are different in each state. She also criticized the introduction of bills she said would foster discrimination based on gender. 

“I do not want to take away their guns, but I do want responsible, common-sense laws that protect women and children from gun violence,” Sykes said.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.