Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst hosted the annual Domestic Violence Awareness Awards inside the Sophie Moiese Room at the County Courthouse on Wednesday morning.

KGVO News attended the ceremony in which various members of the law enforcement and legal community were honored for their work in service to victims of intimate partner violence.

Nearly 200 Domestic Violence Cases in the Past Year

Pabst opened the ceremony with the statistics collected by her office.

“In 2021, my office filed 191 cases involving intimate partner violence,” began Pabst. “In addition, the city attorney's office filed 183 new partner family member assault cases during that same time. Sadly, that is a minimum of 374 times last year, in which we were called to respond.”

Pabst looked forward to a time when such award ceremonies would no longer be necessary in Missoula County.

“Collectively we look forward to a future where we no longer hear the question, ‘why doesn't she leave?’,” she said. “Where we no longer ask ‘why does he hurt her?’, and where we raise the level of education, awareness, and a new set of societal rules, so as to make our response obsolete.”

Missoula Detective Helped Write the Book on Domestic Violence Response

Pabst then turned the podium over to Missoula Police Department Detective Nate Griesse, who pointed out the multi-disciplinary aspect of domestic violence response.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a month to recognize and raise awareness to this important issue,” said Detective Griesse. “It is also a month to celebrate the multidisciplinary collaboration within our communities. As a community, we have worked hard this past decade to build strong professional relationships with the goal to provide the best service to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. This past year the YWCA also opened their doors to the brand new Meadowlark, providing services to domestic violence survivors and homeless families to a new unprecedented level. As a community, this is something we need to take great pride in and to celebrate.”

Lifetime Achievement Award Presented

Pabst told KGVO News the most fulfilling award she presented was the Judy Wang Lifetime Achievement Award, named after the late Judy Wang, a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009.

“I was so honored to present Brandy Ries with the Judy Wang Lifetime Achievement Award,” she said. “We created that award last year in honor of Judy Wang who dedicated her entire career towards not just helping victims of domestic violence but educating the rest of us on how to be better responders to this unique crime and social challenge that we all face. So that award is really special to me, and it was such an honor to present it as somebody as incredible as Brandy Ries and her contributions to this community are immeasurable.”

The awards presented on Wednesday include: Educator: Emily Lucas; Missoula City Peace Officer: Tyler Swartz and Rebekah Potter; Missoula County Sheriff Peace Officer: Michael Sullivan; Paralegal: Cori Oller; Social Worker: Melissa Pickett; Victim/Witness Coordinator: Cheryl Patch; Healthcare Professional: Cat Otway; Prosecutor: Angie Robertson Bakken; Legal Advocate: Diana Garrett; Public Servant: Sherri Odlin; Judy Wang Lifetime Achievement Award: Brandi Ries.

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