Sgt. Chris Rasmussen leads the Springfield Police Department’s domestic violence unit, which he says is very focused on documenting domestic assault and disturbance calls. (Photo by Jym Wilson)


Part of a series on domestic violence in Springfield and Greene County. Need help? See related story.

The numbers say Springfield is the domestic violence capital of Missouri. But some say that is an inaccurate picture.

Data gathered by the Springfield Daily Citizen confirm the persistent belief by some that the city is the state’s hotbed of domestic violence — while others say the numbers don’t necessarily prove domestic violence is more common here than in other major cities in Missouri.

One reason Springfield could rank No. 1 in domestic violence incidents per 100,000 people might be because the problem is treated more seriously here by police, resulting in better data collection and tracking.

Even if that’s true, our high rate of domestic violence has been a concern going back to 2004 and the very first Community Focus Report for Springfield and Greene County. The report — known for its “blue ribbons” and “red flags” — analyzes the strengths and problems of the city and Greene County.

Springfield Police Sgt. Chris Rasmussen thinks that, perhaps, the high numbers reflect that victims are more comfortable reporting domestic violence in Springfield.

  • Part I: Black eye for Greene Co.
  • Part II: Obstacles to leaving
  • Part III: Systemic issues
  • Part IV: Searching for solutions

“The Springfield Police Department does a really good job of capturing all those numbers, which I mean, I think it’s good,” said Rasmussen, who oversees the department’s domestic violence unit.  “We’re very focused with our policies on documentation on domestic assault calls and domestic disturbance calls.”

Christina Ford, an advocate for victims of domestic violence, believes having the Greene County Family Justice Center in Springfield skews numbers up because victims are more likely to seek help at the center and are more likely to report the incident. The center is at 1418 E. Pythian St.; it is the only such center in Missouri.

Christina Ford is the founder of the Rebound Foundation, a nonprofit that provides transitional homes for women and children survivors of domestic violence. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

“I feel like people are more comfortable — again this is me speaking from my view — in what they are going to experience, from the police response, the services they receive and that can make someone more prone to report domestic violence versus if you live in an area where you are like ‘I don’t know what services are out there. I don’t know if I’m going to be believed. I don’t know how the police are going to respond.’ You might just not report.

“So I think there are several reasons why our reporting is higher,” Ford said.

Ford created the Rebound Foundation, which provides free transitional housing for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. She opened her first of three planned houses in Springfield in November 2018.  

Ford moved to the city that year when her husband, Dana Ford, was hired to coach the men’s basketball team at Missouri State University.

She had experienced domestic violence in a prior relationship.

The Family Justice Center provides services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, human trafficking and child abuse. The assistance focuses on the needs and wishes of survivors. 

Jamie Willis is director of the Greene County Family Justice Center. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Police and prosecutors are at the center, as well as victim advocates from Harmony House and the Victim Center. A victim can find help at the center without talking to law enforcement or prosecutors.

Jamie Willis directs the center.

“When we first opened here (in 2018) we saw reports go up a little bit,” she said. “And I think that we’ve improved the way that survivors experience the criminal justice system enough that I think we are likely seeing higher reporting rates.”

Still, Willis said, a major obstacle to addressing the problem of domestic violence in our community is that many people still don’t believe it’s widespread or that much of an issue.

Data compiled from Highway Patrol and Census Bureau

The Springfield Daily Citizen used two data sources to compile its Top Ten list of Missouri cities.

One was information the Missouri State Highway Patrol compiled on the number (2,394) of domestic violence incidents reported in 2022. The other was the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates for the population in 2021 of the state’s 10 most populous cities.

Springfield ranked No. 1 in reported domestic violence incidents for at least the past three years, based on rates per 100,000 people. Prior to three years ago, the Missouri Highway Patrol collected data by county rather than by city.

Cora Scott, spokeswoman for the City of Springfield, cautioned the Daily Citizen on the shortcomings of comparing cities in crime rankings. In an email, she included guidance from the FBI:  

“Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place. … Rankings ignore the uniqueness of each locale.”

Factors that differ from city to city, the FBI stated, include population density and the willingness of residents to report crime.

Community Focus reports reflect history of problem

While outreach, awareness, willingness to report and the presence of the Family Justice Center are cited as possible explanations for Springfield’s high rate, the other possibility is Springfield is No. 1 in Missouri because — for reasons that are unclear — domestic violence is entrenched here, part of the culture.

The problem of domestic violence was highlighted in the first Community Focus Report for Springfield and Greene County. It was published in 2004, long before there was a Greene County Family Justice Center, and stated:  “The domestic violence rate for Greene County is nearly double the rate statewide.”

The 2005 report stated: “Greene County’s domestic violence rate is nearly double the state average; in part, this domestic instability is attributable to the area’s methamphetamine traffic.”

After 2005, the report has been published every two years — and until recently, it regularly highlighted the issues of domestic violence.

Excerpts from additional Focus reports (click here to expand)

The 2009 report stated:  “Greene County’s domestic violence rate has been nearly double the state average since the 2004 Community Focus report. Unfortunately, the number of domestic violence assaults continues to rise as does the number of domestic violence calls to the Springfield Police Department.”

The 2011 report stated: “In the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, there is an urgent need for both prosecutors and support staff to handle the increased caseload resulting from the high number of domestic violence calls, child abuse cases, and increased criminal and drug activity.”

“Greene County continues to experience one of the highest domestic violence rates in the state … drug activity, including the use of methamphetamine, is one of the leading causes. 

“Diversion programs, family violence shelters, anger-management counseling, and referrals to community support services are some of the methods being used to combat the problem. In some cases, however, arrest and incarceration are necessary.”

The 2013 report stated: “Springfield  experienced a 20 percent increase in aggravated assault in 2012 with the majority of those assaults attributed to domestic violence. 

“While the core pillars of intervention and justice have been aggressively sought, Springfield-Greene County is in need of prevention services and programs to address the increased rates of domestic violence and child abuse.

“Upon seeing the continuing increase of cases in 2012, a community Domestic Violence Task  Force was formed involving the Police Department, the Prosecutor’s Office, Harmony House, and many other agencies that serve domestic violence survivors.

“This task force was created in an effort to reach out to victims, inform them of services, and encourage them to take action to create safer lives for themselves.

“The Springfield Police Department also has partnered with the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to aggressively investigate and prosecute repeat offenders of domestic  violence, produce high quality cases, and open lines of communication between law enforcement and victims.

“While aggressively dealing with this issue, a related problem is the shortage of resources available to address the growing need. Harmony House, the main provider of emergency shelter, reports it was able to provide emergency shelter for 560 women and children in 2012, but had to turn away more than 1,200 referrals because bed space was not available.”

The 2015 report stated:  “The total number of aggravated domestic assaults reported in 2014 increased by nearly 20 percent from 2013. Although increased enforcement efforts and increased public awareness of domestic violence issues, both locally and nationally, may have had an impact, it remains clear that officials must continue to work in partnership with citizens to address this issue in the future.

“Murders in Springfield and Greene County spiked in 2012 and 2014. Approximately 90 percent of the victims knew their attackers and 25–30 percent each year can be attributed to domestic violence.”

The 2017 report stated:  “More resources are concentrating on family-violence issues. The Springfield Police Department spearheaded the Family Violence Task Force in 2012 upon discovering an upward trend in violent domestic assaults. 

“As expected, more awareness contributed to an increase in the number of reports of domestic assault.”

The topic of domestic violence is not mentioned in the 2019 and 2021 reports. The 2023 report has not been completed.

Missouri ranks high in number of women killed by men

Looking at a broader picture, a different annual study shows Missouri has a high rate of men killing women, based on population.

Missouri tied for sixth among 50 states in the incidence of men killing women in 2020, which is the most recent year reviewed by the Violence Policy Center, which analyzes homicide data submitted to the FBI.  

The center since 1996 has published a report called “When Men Murder Women.”  The annual study only includes homicides where one man killed one woman.

In Missouri in 2020, 67 women were killed by men. The average age of the victim was 38. Most often, a gun was used, and in 94 percent of the homicides the woman knew the man who killed her. 

Out of those 67 women who died by homicide, the number of Black victims was disproportionately high: 39 of the victims were white, 27 were Black and 1 was of unknown race.

In instances where the circumstances of the homicide were known, 89 percent of the deaths occurred not during the commission of another crime, but during an argument between victim and offender.

Chicken-and-egg debate

Which came first? Is domestic violence just more common here for reasons that are unclear? Or do victims just feel more comfortable reporting abuse because of the systems in place to provide help and pursue justice?

What we know is that Springfield’s rate of reported domestic violence incidents in 2022 worked out to 1,420 reports per 100,000 people. That rate is 35 percent higher than the next city (Kansas City). 

Also, consider this: Springfield’s Harmony House is Greene County’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children — and is the largest in the state, with 168 beds. 

In an average week, spokesperson Jackie Langdon said, Harmony House receives about 40 calls from individuals who qualify for shelter but are turned away because it’s full. A few of those calls are from individuals who call more than once.

About Living in Fear

This special investigative report explores the far-reaching and insidious nature of domestic abuse in our community. Living in Fear will be presented in four parts over the next two months:

  • Part I: Black eye for Greene County, published May 8-11, looks at the depth and breadth of the problem here.
  • Part II: Obstacles to leaving, to be published in late May, will examine the dynamics and complications facing victims looking to leave abusive relationships.
  • Part III: Systemic issues, to be published in early June, puts a focus on the criminal justice system and potential shortcomings.
  • Part IV: Searching for solutions, to be published in late June, taps local, regional and national experts in search of ways to improve the system and reduce domestic violence.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald