Fargo man asks for changes to domestic violence policies
"They go in and lock themselves in a room to get away from him, he busts the doors down," says Michael McMorrow. He says his daughter and her children have been caught in a cycle of domestic violence for more than a decade - and they have the physical and mental scars to prove it.
"She got kicked in the face, she got her eye orbit broken, her jaw was completely broken. She had no teeth left," McMorrow says. "She's been put in the hospital three times."
"The kids are terrified. They're living in fear. They call me all the time, 'Come get me. Dad's going to hit Mom,' or 'Dad's hitting Mom,' or 'They're fighting again,'" he continues. "I'm just afraid of what he's teaching my grand-kids. And they're showing it."
McMorrow's fears have peaked now that the children's father has been released from jail. He says the family has worked with police to end the abuse, but officers can only do so much.
"Often times, when there's a domestic violence situation, the judge will issue that protection order," says Jessica Schindeldecker, the Crime Prevention and Public Information Officer with the Fargo Police Department. "It's important to make sure that you're following through with these protection orders – not allowing that person to be in contact with you or to violate those. And if they do, you need to hold them accountable for your safety."
But McMorrow says it's more complicated than that.
"She's afraid to say anything to him or kick him out for he'll retaliate, he'll hurt her or the kids," McMorrow says. "The police have been called, they take him away, he's got a protection order on him. It's not – no sooner than he gets out of jail, bailed out or whatever, he's back over there."
McMorrow's daughter's abuser has been charged with domestic violence and violating protection orders eight times. He says when protection order violations and domestic violence charges stack up like that – it's proof the system isn't working.
We reached out to the Cass County State's Attorney multiple times to ask if he thinks the current system is protecting families like McMorrow's. He said he did not have time to meet with us - so we asked a different set of experts.
Dr. Christopher Johnson, with Fargo's Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, says the system isn't perfect but it is looking into new ways to help victims.
"Right now, the state of North Dakota is examining the efficacy of a domestic abuse court in Grand Forks. And so we're all very closely watching that to determine whether we can expand that to the rest of the state," says Johnson. "Anytime that we have specialty courts that are focusing in on a specialized problem or population, I think that the community benefits. And so domestic violence court would be no exception to that."
"I would like to see our county officials, our elected officials, deal with this like it's as serious as it is," McMorrow says.
Until that happens though, McMorrow says he'll use the legal system to its fullest - even if he has to stand up to law makers - to make a difference for families like his daughters'.
"We've got to get them out. We've got to get them out. Otherwise, people are going to get beaten up, people are going to get killed," says McMorrow.
If you or a loved one are dealing with domestic violence, there are resources within the community that you can turn to for help. You can find more information about that by clicking on the links on the right-hand side of this article, or by calling the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center at (701) 293-7273.