4/4/2013 1:42:00 PM The Refuge utilizing state funding for preparing more comprehensive response and education
Chisago County charged out 111 domestic violence cases in 2012 and there were also charges filed in 15 criminal sexual conduct investigations.
The Refuge Network, with offices in Isanti County and a shelter in Chisago County, recently won state funding to try to do some preventive education to keep these numbers from growing, and also develop methods of assessing domestic violence crime scenes using a uniform protocol that also may help refine how cases are handled.
Shellene Johnson said the Refuge Network has almost 2,000 annual initial contacts for potential domestic abuse situations (of all the counties served) which at the very least result in follow-up calls even if criminal cases aren’t opened. The bottom line is the organization wants to get ahead of what is sure to be an increase in incidents as the area’s population increases. Johnson recently visited with the Chisago County Board to announce creation of an Inter Agency Council on DomesticViolence and Sexual Assault.
The group will refine Chisago County’s efforts in this field. Goals include having a representative available to work on-site with hospitalized victims, providing more teen education on avoiding and/or how to respond to a situation involving sexual violence and to improve agency responses. Johnson said the Inter Agency Council has gotten off to a good organizational start and will meet for the first time in April. County Victim-Witness Coordinator Wendy Stenberg, who works in the county attorney’s office, is also helping put together outreach for area schools.
She told the commissioners there’s been some reluctance on the part of school administrators to carve out time in a school day to focus on yet another societal issue; but she feels making this topic something youth can talk about and know where to go for help, is important. Representatives of The Refuge will be making contact with area school boards to explain the cooperative effort being put together, she added. Stenberg said there’s a growing number of juvenile sex assault cases and she’s excited to be able to do systematic preventive work. The report was for informational purposes only. The county commissioners have no direct action role in utilizing The Refuge’s state grant.