Domestic Violence in Minnesota

last updated September 2012

Minnesota is an international leader in preventing and combating domestic violence. Women’s Advocates, Inc. in St. Paul opened one of the first shelters in the country for battered women and their children in 1974. The Minnesota Legislature passed the Domestic Abuse Act in 1979 and has amended it to make it stronger every year since then. Beginning in the early 1980’s the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs in Duluth developed the “Duluth Model,” an evolving method for bringing communities together to end domestic violence which has been implemented internationally. The Advocates for Human RightsWomen’s Human Rights Program, based in Minneapolis, has worked locally, nationally and internationally since 1983 applying human rights standards to advocate for women’s rights, particularly to combat domestic violence.
Orders for Protection
Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act provides a civil order for protection remedy for victims of domestic violence. The law defines “domestic abuse” as the following conduct, “if committed against a family or household member by a family or household member:”
(1) physical harm, bodily injury, or assault;
(2) the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; or
(3) terroristic threats . . . , criminal sexual conduct . . . , or interference with an    emergency call . . . . [1]
A “family or household member” means:
(1) spouses and former spouses;
(2) parents and children;
(3) persons related by blood;
(4) persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past;
(5) persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time;
(6) a man and woman if the woman is pregnant and the man is alleged to be the father, regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time; and
(7) persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.[2]
The law applies to many familial and intimate partner relationships, regardless of legal marital status. Dating violence is covered under “persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.” Typically, however, the abuse or neglect of a child is not addressed under the Domestic Abuse Act, but instead is considered maltreatment of a minor.[3]
The law provides for an ex parte order (based only on the statement of the victim) when there is an immediate and present danger of abuse. The order can exclude the perpetrator from a shared dwelling and prohibit the perpetrator from having any contact with the victim, as well as other requirements.[4]  The perpetrator may request a hearing on the ex parte order or the victim may request a hearing to ask for restrictions or other relief that is not available in an ex parte order. Additional relief available in an order for protection issued by the court following a hearing include custody of the children and financial support.[5] An order for protection may be in place for as long as 50 years under certain circumstances.
Related Criminal Law
In addition to the civil order for protection, Minnesota laws also address domestic abuse as a criminal violation. Violation of an order for protection is a criminal offence and can be punished as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony, depending on the seriousness of the violation.[6] A court may issue a domestic abuse no-contact order during a criminal proceeding for domestic abuse or other related violations.[7]
 “Qualified domestic violence related offences” can increase the penalties for other crimes.[8] These include:
  • Violation of domestic abuse order for protection, a domestic abuse no-contact order or a harassment restraining order
  • Murder
  • Assault, including assault by strangulation
  • Criminal sexual conduct
  • Terroristic threats
  • Harassment, including stalking
  • Interference with an emergency call
Minnesota law allows a police officer to arrest a person without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed domestic abuse in the preceding 24 hours.[9] An officer must arrest and take into custody a person whom the officer has probable cause to believe has violated an order for protection.[10] At the time of arrest, the police officer must give the victim notice of available legal rights and remedies. The officer must also tell the victim whether a shelter or other services are available in the community.[11]
Fatality Statistics
At least 23 women were murdered as a result of domestic violence in 2011 in Minnesota.[12] Since 2002 the number of femicide victims each year in Minnesota has ranged from 13 to 26. In 2010, four women were killed in domestic homicides in Hennepin County, Minnesota’s largest county by population.[13]
Community Advocacy Programs
Many victims and their children seek services through domestic violence community advocacy programs funded through the State of Minnesota’s Office of Justice Programs.[14] These programs provide a range of court advocacy, counselling, referral, and support services through community-based programs located in counties across the state. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women is an organization of 90 member programs located throughout Minnesota carrying out programming that advances women’s safety and security.[15]
Shelter Facilities
In Minnesota a “shelter facility” is defined as “a secure crisis shelter, housing network, safe home, or other facility operated by a nonprofit organization and designated by the center for the purpose of providing food, lodging, safety, and 24-hour coverage for battered women and their children.”[16]  In fiscal year 2008 (July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008), 20 shelters housed 4,513 battered women and 4,261 children in 662 licensed shelter beds.[17]
Innovative Practices 
Minnesota has introduced many innovative programs and services for victims of domestic violence, including the pioneering shelter founded by Women’s Advocates,[18] and the development of the Duluth Model by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs.[19]  Another term for the Duluth Model is coordinated community response, which refers to a system of networks, agreements, processes and applied principles created by the local shelter movement, criminal justice agencies, and human service programs.
Other innovative practices and programs include the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse, housed at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work, established in 1994 by the Minnesota State Legislature “to improve the quality of higher education related to violence.”[20] Day One® was founded in 1995 through the partnership of a health care foundation, a community fund organization and battered women's shelters. Day One is a safety line that immediately connects victims to shelters that have room for them.[21] In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature created Safe at Home,[22] an address confidentiality program that allows victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to designate the Secretary of State as an agent to receive and forward mail and to receive service of process of legal documents.[23]
WATCH is a court monitoring program, founded in 1992 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. WATCH monitors court proceedings to make the justice system more effective and responsive in handling cases of violence against women and children, and to create a more informed and involved public. Its mission is based on the principle that public scrutiny will help ensure a just and fair court system. WATCH uses trained volunteers to observe and report on more than 5,000 hearings in the Hennepin County court system each year.[24]  

[12] Femicide Report, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (2011),
[13] A Matter of Life and Death: Fourth Judicial District Fatality Review Team (2011),
[15] Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women,
[17] Minnesota Office of Justice Programs Crime Victim Services Summary Report (January 2009) at p. 13,
[18] Women’s Advocates,