NEWS

'You are Safe with Me' campaign aims to end domestic violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Family Safety Network (FSN), a program that provides domestic violence advocacy services in Hubbard, Cass and Clearwater counties, has a new campaign called “You are Safe with Me” to bring awareness to communities.

Written By: Lorie R. Skarpness | 8:54 am, Oct. 6, 2021

 

Donation boxes will be at businesses in Park Rapids and Walker to help raise money for the Family Safety Network and also raise awareness about domestic violence and how community members can help victims. Contributed / Family Safety Network

The story of the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito in the national news recently has put a spotlight on domestic violence.

It has also highlighted the importance of law enforcement and bystanders to believe the victim and offer help.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Family Safety Network (FSN), a program that provides domestic violence advocacy services in Hubbard, Cass and Clearwater counties, has a new campaign called “You are Safe with Me” to bring awareness to communities.

Participating businesses receive a “You Are Safe with Me” poster, along with cards with information about resources to help victims of domestic violence.

“It takes awareness and action to make social change,” FSN director Annette White said. “We are inviting everyone to speak up. In order to spark change, we must talk openly about how domestic violence affects our communities, our families and our lives.”

Warning signs and statistics

“Some signs of abuse are verbal cruelty, fear and anxiety or lack of respect in public,” White said. “Often an abuser will isolate the victim, so they don’t feel like they have any other support. Not all abuse is visible. Watch for a partner who doesn’t want them to spend time with their family or friends. Do they start dressing drastically differently to hide bruises or avoid jealousy? Do they abruptly cancel plans? It’s a control mechanism. Look for changes in their demeanor. Maybe they were very cheery and hopeful and now they’re very resigned, quiet, withdrawn.”

White said statistics show in 4 in 10 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of intimate partner violence.

“Domestic violence does not discriminate,” she said. “It can happen to anyone anywhere. It’s learned behavior.”

The number of clients that FSN serves has grown from 95 in 2017 to 198 in 2018, 252 in 2019 and 508 in 2020.

Finding a safe place

Recent reports of domestic violence from Hubbard County Sheriff’s office dispatch blotters include violations of orders for protection and restraining orders, threats, verbal and physical abuse against both men and women and harassing texts.

“We are so blessed in our communities to have law enforcement agencies that are invested in stopping abuse and work hard to lead victims to programs that can help them,” White said.

She added that housing and shelter availability are the biggest needs facing victims in this area.

“We can help them if they need a bus ticket or gas and food to get to their parents’ place, or a couple night’s shelter with a motel voucher until a relative or friend can pick them up,” she said. “Maybe they need car repairs so they can leave. Or maybe their abuser is in jail, and they can’t pay the utilities because they haven’t been allowed to have a job. If we can just get them through that immediate period, they can maintain their housing.”

White said having an emergency shelter in Akeley will be a big help.

“We support plans for the Akeley Regional Community Center emergency shelter 100 percent and are going to partner with them,” White said. “Their new director, Allison Forte, has tremendous experience in the field. Our agency has worked with her previously and it was a very successful partnership.”

How to help

“The best thing you can do for someone experiencing domestic violence is believe them and help provide them with a safe place,” White said. “If they will talk to you, share that there are confidential resources and you are willing to bring them if they want to go.

“You cannot force someone to get help they are not ready to receive. We have partnerships with social services, law enforcement and organizations that provide therapy.”

White said people return to an abusive relationship an average of seven times.

“That’s because there have been good times in the relationship, too,” she said. “The programs we partner with are really working together to try and make an impact. We have a partnership with Wellness Matters. We also offer financial classes, support groups and trauma-informed care.”

Help is available by calling 1-800-324-8151, which is answered 24 hours a day.

“We get a lot of after-hours calls,” White said. “Most are from law enforcement, but some are from victims. Maybe they aren’t ready to leave. Our approach is person-centered. I’ve had people I’ve worked with for 18 months before they finally leave, and that’s OK. If we can give them help and a safety plan along the way, that’s what we’ll do.”