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April 19, 2019

4/8/2019 2:19:00 PM
Day of Action puts domestic violence front and center
Form left to right, County Attorney Janet Rieter, County Sheriff Brandon Thyen and Lindstrom Mayor and former Lakes Area PD Chief Kevin Stenson.
Form left to right, County Attorney Janet Rieter, County Sheriff Brandon Thyen and Lindstrom Mayor and former Lakes Area PD Chief Kevin Stenson.

 A dozen roses...one rose for each of 12 men and women who died as the result of domestic-violence in 2018 in Minnesota. As each victim’s name was read aloud at a rally last week in Center City, one rose was set into a vase. The solemn ceremony is part of a “Day of Action” at the Chisago County Government Center.

The annual east central Minnesota event was hosted in Pine County last year and next year it’s in Kanabec County.

Day of Action renews the community’s commitment to eliminate domestic abuse. It also is an opportunity to meet faces behind the names in the multi-county organization serving victims of abuse, The Refuge Network.

Family Pathways brought The Refuge under its organizational umbrella in 2014. The Refuge program started providing services in the Chisago County area in 1986.

Day of Action attendees represented law enforcement, the courts, Human Services and direct providers of services for abuse victims and programs for transforming perpetrators.

One speaker at the rally was Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter. East central Minnesota counties served by Family Pathways’ Refuge Network are collaborating really well on what they know to be successful incident responses, she said. “Day of Action” brings people together in numerous Minnesota locations, Reiter said, and lets them know they are not alone in this fight.

Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad said counties will continue to invest in programs and will work to change the perpetrators’ behavior; citizens also need to let state legislators know the state must continue to be a leader in this. (The Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith cited House File 464 and Senate File 1683 specifically, if readers want to contact lawmakers.)

Edblad said Minnesota had the first domestic abuse shelter for women and children in the nation. It continues to turnover new ground in battling domestic abuse. He commended advocates and volunteers who work with law enforcement and the courts, helping to address abuse.

Zion Lutheran Church Pastor Sarah Kerkes led attendees in a moment of silence at the mid-day ceremony. Kerkes is a survivor of abuse, she said, and then voiced an emotional prayer for God’s strength for victims and for those working in this field.

A speaker at the event, who had successfully utilized programs offered through The Refuge, is newly-divorced and starting a new life. She declared that women need to, “Stop being afraid to be free. Reach out,”she stressed.

She explained how she had contacted a Chisago County deputy, when her tormentor started uttering specific threats. The deputy encouraged her to get legal help protecting herself and her children. She spoke highly of the compassion and willingness of local law enforcement, prosecutors and The Refuge which supported her in her effort to get out of a dangerous domestic situation. The offender had imposed so many years of psychological control and created such a toxic home atmosphere she was at the point where it had become her “new normal” she added.

She is still scared, but there’s a future she can envision, and she is gaining strength and growing more self-reliant every day.


The Refuge programs aided several hundred persons touched by domestic abuse offenses in 2018. Chisago County Victim Witness Coordinator Wendy Stenberg said 90 domestic abuse cases were opened in this county alone, or about 10 percent of the county’s court actions.

Chisago County did not have any deaths last year the direct result of abusive circumstances.

The Refuge men’s programs supervisor Dustin Anderson said the east central counties’ courts sent hundreds to intervention counseling programs, with 60 men successfully finishing sessions last year.

Call to learn more about what you need to do if you are a victim experiencing abuse, contact Day One at 1-866-223-1111. There are Refuge offices in Cambridge, Chisago City and Mora.

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