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New Grants Part of Evolution of Domestic-Violence Work in MN

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Thursday, March 10, 2022   

Clarification: Standpoint serves more than 6,000 people each year. An earlier version of the story used provided data, which noted it served 511 individuals in the last fiscal year. That total reflects only the first quarter of that year. (1:08 p.m. CST, April 12, 2022)

As Women's History Month takes shape, some Minnesota groups are getting added support to assist survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

The state has seen pioneering work in the field before, and the new funding helps others carve out their own approaches. In the early 1980s, the Duluth area began to receive global recognition for a comprehensive approach to responding to domestic violence.

The lasting effects of the model still are debated, and it is not the only effort seeking to address gaps.

Thi Synavone, director of organizational and staff development for the nonprofit Standpoint, which focuses on providing free legal guidance by phone to survivors across the state, said there often are barriers in this area.

"A lot of time, seeking legal advice costs money," Synavone explained. "As victims of domestic violence, financial resources is one of the main reasons that people aren't able to leave their abusers."

And while legal-aid groups exist, there is an intake process to go through. Standpoint is getting an additional $20,000 dollars to carry out this work under a new grant from the Mardag Foundation, an affiliate of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

Standpoint pointed out during the pandemic, it has seen demand for services rise. In the first quarter of the last fiscal year, it served 511 survivors. For the first quarter this year, the number rose to 828. Synavone acknowledged some of it might be due to other programs being stretched thin.

She added they are ready to assist, including emerging programs under Standpoint such as housing assistance.

"Housing assistance for survivors has also been an area that victims have identified as being a huge reason why they're not able to leave their abuser," Synavone emphasized.

Another grant is going to Anna Marie's Alliance, which operates in the St. Cloud area.

Charles Hempeck, executive director of the Alliance, said in recent years, they have focused more on a trauma-informed approach.

"We continue to try to understand people's past trauma and how that might impact what their needs might be, as well as other things that are going on currently," Hempeck stressed. "Because some women have sex trafficking in their background."

As for the Duluth model, it includes a coordinated community response, while addressing the role misogyny plays in domestic-violence cases. While still widely used, some researchers question whether it is the best approach.

Disclosure: The Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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