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Steele County woman shares her story of years of domestic abuse

Jane dedicated her entire heart, soul and life to a man she believed loved her for 16 years, even though it meant she lived in fear.

“There were several signs early on that our relationship was not healthy or going in the right direction – I look back and I realize the relationship should have never been ongoing,” said Jane, a Steele County resident. “In that kind of relationship, though, you are easily persuaded and made to believe you are in the wrong. You feel guilty, and you continue to follow the path of an unhealthy relationship that turns into a domestically violent situation.”

Jane agreed to talk to the People’s Press about her abusive marriage as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The People’s Press isn’t naming her due to concerns for her safety.

When Jane first met her husband in 2004, she said there were red flags such as name calling or accusations that would pop up, but she didn’t recognize them as the beginning of a long cycle of abuse. Missie Boone, the domestic violence program coordinator at the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County, said this is common behavior in abusive individuals. Many abusers use an abuse pattern, called the “power and control wheel,” to develop power and control over their victims, Boone said.

“A lot of times it starts with red flags such as manipulation where they try to make it seem like their partner is in the wrong,” Boone said. “They play the blame game when a victim says something hurt their feelings or bothered them – the abuser will turn it around and say ‘I never would have done this if you wouldn’t have done that.’”

Boone said isolation is another common red flag in the abuse cycle, something Jane said she fell into with her marriage as well.

“I never really told my family and friends what was going on. I think some of them knew some things but never really knew how severe it was,” Jane said. “It was embarrassing – embarrassing thinking this was happening to me and my family, but I lost several friends really right away in the beginning because they saw the warning signs that I didn’t and would try to talk to me about it. In the end I made the decision to lose those friends and stay in the relationship.”

Jane said the abuse started to accelerate when the name calling turned into scare tactics that included throwing and breaking items. After a few more months, Jane said it became physical. The physical abuse coupled with emotional and mental abuse came to a head last fall when Jane said an altercation was the last straw.

“I was harmed physically and mentally and another family member was harmed as well while my children watched everything,” Jane said. “Enough was enough, and I ran from my house – I literally ran for my life that morning.”

After 16 years of living in fear, Jane said she was out on her own with no idea where to go or who to turn to. That next morning, she said she picked up a copy of the People’s Press with a story quoting Boone on the front page: No one deserves to be a victim of abuse.

“I never knew of any resources as far as the Crisis Resource Center,” Jane said. “I had seen some hotlines, and at one point I know I thought about it, but was too scared to call thinking, ‘What are they going to do? How could they help? Was it really necessary? Am I really in an abusive relationship?’”

Jane said the day she finally called the CRC, her entire life changed. She was amazed by the support and education she was able to receive – even if it took a while to let it all soak in.

“I left – and then I went back,” Jane said. “He had been arrested for domestic assault, but I helped get him on the diversion program and stayed with him. While COVID was going on – that was really hard.”

During the months of COVID-19 forcing many people inside their homes for extended periods of time, crisis centers nationwide saw an uptick in domestic violence cases. Erica Staab-Absher, executive director of HOPE Center in Faribault, said the pandemic simply amplified already stressful situations.

“Across the state, colleagues aren’t just seeing an increase in call numbers but an increase in the severity of the cases,” Staab-Absher said. “If alcohol abuse was already a thing – it was amplified. Financial concerns were amplified with unemployment. With so much instability in the general public and the world right now, everything was amplified in a relationship.”

Boone said they’ve helped 750 new individuals in the past year and have 1,000 ongoing cases at the CRC in Steele County. The HOPE Center in Rice County served 669 clients in its domestic abuse program during the 2020 fiscal year.

Staab-Absher said the pandemic created a stressful environment for even the healthiest relationships, so those with an already rocky foundation ended up with more opportunity for potentially violent outbursts.

“We generally get 30 to 40 calls in a week, but there was one week this year that we had 109,” Staab-Absher said.

This spring, Jane made the decision to leave again after her husband assaulted her once again. Despite the fear of the unknown on top of the pandemic uncertainty, Jane is on her own as she starts her life over and searching for a happier future.

“I’m not perfect – I’m a human being, but for many years I believed it was all my fault until I actually realized that it just wasn’t a happy life for me or my children,” Jane said.

She’s reached out to hotlines for help that have been “a saving grace.” She’s educating herself because walking away from someone that she loved was difficult, but she knows she had to walk away so that she and her children could have a better life.

“All I had to do was leave,” she said. “It gets to be a long, tiring life, so I hope everyone knows it’s never too late and you don’t have to be afraid. One phone call could be the life changing decision you need to make. No one deserves to be in an unhealthy relationship, and everyone deserves to be happy.”


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Family of Dylan Lattery remember 23-year-old’s spirit and heart

A quote from the 2019 film “Just Mercy” has been on the minds of Dylan Lattery’s family as they’ve gathered in their living room to laugh, cry, and remember their son, brother, and nephew.

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. We all need mercy, we all need justice, and we all need some measure of unmerited grace,” the movie states.

Dylan, a 2015 Owatonna High School graduate, died Sept. 24 in a homicide in Minneapolis. Travis Leonard of Minneapolis was charged earlier this week with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in Dylan’s death. Dylan was 23.

Dylan’s parents, Lynn and Eric Lattery of Owatonna, are still in shock over the death of their son. Instead of talking about the way he died, the couple and Dylan’s sister Kelsey have decided to celebrate the way he lived.

As the family passed around photos from their annual family vacations, they began talking about the person they loved who was clearly missing from the room and from their lives.

“We traveled a lot together, but Dylan traveled a lot on his own too,” Lynn said. “He loved the coast, he loved the water – he wanted to plan a road trip with us to show us all his favorite places he’s been.”

The three who knew Dylan the best couldn’t help but get lost in their stories of the young man who was quick to make friends and was avid about believing the best in people. Lynn laughed about how her son was the first to make friends with complete strangers during their family trips, even if they were people who appeared to have nothing in common with their Minnesotan family from a small town.

“He always said that strangers are just friends you haven’t made yet,” Lynn said as she held back tears. “He always believed people were good, and sometimes that hurt him, and as his mother I got to hear those painful stories. It was an honor that he came to me, but it was hard to hear, too.”

Kelsey, who is exactly three years and three days older than her brother, said Dylan couldn’t help but continue to give people love, despite how many times they may hurt him. The siblings grew up bickering about Dylan’s “angry” rap music, teasing one another about clothes and relationships, and sharing goofy times such as dancing in public places during family trips.

During their adult lives, Dylan was often the person Kelsey would call when she was upset or angry. Even though he wasn’t always the best at just listening to her problems, Kelsey laughed about how he was able to fix them without realizing it.

“It was just a few weeks ago that I told him that he makes me feel so safe,” Kelsey said as she wiped away fresh tears. “He told me that I would never be too much to handle and that he appreciated my crazy. Every time that I would ask him if I was being stupid, he would say that I am valid.”

Though Eric struggled to put into exact words what kind of person his son was, there was one word that seemed to define him perfectly: genuine.

“I don’t know how to put it, Dylan was a free spirit, not quite a rebel, but perhaps a rebel against the status quo,” Eric said with a laugh, adding that Dylan was everything from a football player to a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast to a Boy Scout to a missionary. “He wasn’t about being ostentatious. He taught me a lot, but the one thing he really helped me see is that you have live life by your code – honesty, loyalty, trust. Don’t stray, and don’t sell out.”

Though the circumstances surrounding Dylan’s death may bring up some uncertainties for those who didn’t know him, his family stand firm that he was a gracious, loving individual who didn’t have a fair chance at living the life he fully deserved.

“We all have these skeletons in our closets, and we all just got lucky that the errors we made didn’t show themselves to the world,” said Dylan’s uncle Bob Ross. “They didn’t cost us our lives.”

Lisa Ross, Dylan’s aunt, echoed her husband’s sentiments, adding that no young adult is perfect but it doesn’t make them less loved by the world.

“We all had time for redemption,” she said. “It was a timing thing. We all can learn and move through with grace and support, but his mistake – he didn’t have time to make it right.”

Shortly before Dylan’s death, Eric said he had a serious conversation with his son where he told Dylan that there wasn’t a mistake in the world that he hasn’t made himself, and that he would always be there for Dylan to help him work through it.

“The stages of grief – they just come in waves,” Eric said. “You go from feeling shocked and numb and then you get triggered and you’re bawling. But I have to say, it has been amazing to see the sheer number of people who loved and supported Dylan, reaching out to us and letting us know how much he will be missed.”

Though the family knows their broken hearts won’t heal overnight, Lynn said she finds solace in the legacy Dylan left behind.

“Live life right now,” she said. “He believed angels are at work all around the world, and Dylan was just beginning to make changes and build a life… so we have to just do it. We have to live life right now.”


Updated

Owatonna High School graduate Jason Williamson has been fully-recovered from a torn ACL sustained in April of 2019 and is poised to see the field for the Minnesota Gophers as a redshirt-freshman this upcoming season. (Brad Rempel/University of Minnesota)


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Owatonna firefighters to hold Fire Prevention Week online

The Owatonna Fire Department will be going virtual for its annual Fire Prevention Week next week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department’s campaign theme this year is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” Fire Prevention Week, from Oct. 4 through Oct. 10, is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association.

Cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Cooking causes an average of 172,900 home fires reported per year, or 49% of all reported home fires in the U.S. These fires resulted in 21% of all home fire deaths and 44% of all reported home fire injuries annually, according to Home Cooking Fires research by the NFPA.

The department will not be hosting the open house chili feed this year, which usually kicks off fire prevention week. Funds raised from past chili feeds have gone toward the We All Play initiative to build an inclusive playground and miracle field in Owatonna. In other years, funds have gone to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, according to Owatonna Fire Department Fire Commander Arik Brase.

Under normal circumstances, the department would visit local schools to give short fire safety presentations to students, but the pandemic has put a halt on that. During these visits students would get a tour of the fire engines.

“This year will be virtual, so they can go to the City of Owatonna website or they can follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates,” Brase said.

The department will be sharing safety tips and activities, such as a coloring contest, on those platforms. It will also be providing resource handouts to local school districts on this year’s prevention week theme.

“There might be some livestream throughout the week,” Brase added.

He said the public will have the opportunity to meet their local firefighters, learn about firefighting gear and get a virtual tour of the fire trucks.

The pandemic has also changed how the fire department responds to calls.

“Masks are big, normally we wouldn’t typically wear one unless the circumstances called for it, but now it’s virtually on every call,” Brase said.

The Owatonna Fire Department shared the following kitchen fire safety tips on their website:

Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.

If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

You have to be alert when cooking. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.

Always keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner, and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

More resources for educators and parents can be found on the Owatonna Fire Department website.