According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. One in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape,” (ncadv.org).
This statistic and issue is alarming and affects all of us. That is why Minnesota School of Business-Elk River partnered with a local organization, Rivers of Hope, to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to raise awareness about this issue. Thirty individuals including staff, faculty, students from the medical assistant and massage therapy programs, along with staff from Rivers of Hope participated in the walk on a beautiful, but slightly windy, day.
Rivers of Hope, located in Monticello, Minnesota, assists survivors (men, women, and children) of family violence and dating abuse in Sherburne and Wright counties. The organization has been around for 25 years. It was originally opened in Elk River in 1989 by a group of concerned citizens that recognized a need for services in that area. The “movement” began due to the growing issue which prompted the organization to expand to Wright County and then begin offering services to youth. Since then, they have also added criminal justice intervention and advocacy services.
Stephanie Lahr, Program Coordinator, is a huge supporter for the services that are provided by Rivers of Hope.
“There is a tie between what is seen or experienced at home to what is experienced in dating relationships…there is a connection between males who have been abused that end up becoming abusers and females that experience or witness it that eventually become victims,” shared Lahr.
Rivers of Hope has also participated in MSB-Elk River’s Walk a Mile event for three years. Lahr has been fortunate to join the group for the walk the last two years.
“It gives the staff in our office hope that people want to help to raise awareness about our mission and the fact that domestic violence and sexual assault are still very big issues in society. We’re at a place to provide great services to survivors but we need to stop this issue from being a problem. We need to focus on prevention and awareness,” said Lahr.
This event was successful in two aspects. It was able to do what Rivers of Hope aims to do, create awareness, but also helped to raise funds to support their mission. Staff at MSB-Elk River donated $134 to support the organization and its efforts.
The organization hosts a variety of events throughout the year. This past weekend was the Monticello city-wide garage sale and Rivers of Hope was set up in the Fibernet parking lot selling items to raise funds. During the holidays they partner with local donors to provide gifts for families in need.
At Rivers of Hope, there are three main advocates that assist survivors, two adult advocates (one for each county), and one youth advocate. Their services are very client-focused. They listen to the survivors and then provide options that are available and support them as they make some very difficult decisions.
The shelter offers an adult-focused program which offers a crisis line, referrals for shelters (the organization does not have a shelter on the premises), civil legal advocacy for protective orders, and support groups for women survivors.
In addition, they also have a criminal justice intervention program that partners with local law enforcement, county district attorney offices, and victim witness services. The program helps survivors understand their rights as victims of a crime, as well as provides individual advocacy on a case-by-case basis, resource referrals, and interventions. A more recent addition to this program includes “safety planning” in regard to technology and social media use. They help survivors to understand the impact and issues that are created due to social media.
The youth program services twelve schools in the two counties and provides assistance to individuals and groups. The advocate focuses on specific topics such as relationships, self-image and esteem, public and media awareness (safety planning).
For more information about the organization or to become involved in their efforts, go to: http://riversofhope.org. Plan to participate in the Walk a Mile event in 2015 which will occur again in the spring.