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Walkers aim to end domestic violence

The annual Walk to End Domestic Violence included a stop at the Red Bridge in Park Rapids to drop flowers in memory of those who have died. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

The weather calmed down just in time for the Headwaters Intervention Center's annual Walk to End Domestic Violence Thursday, Oct. 25.

"It seemed too cold that morning and we were wondering if we should call it off," said HIC victim advocate Shellie Bates. "Then it totally calmed down just before we started."

The walk coincided with October being Domestic Violence Awareness month. It started at the Hubbard County Courthouse. Walkers followed a route toward Heartland Park where flowers were thrown off the Red Bridge in remembrance of the men, women and children who have died this year as a result of domestic violence.

As of the end of July, 11 women, four men and two children have died in 2012 as a result of domestic violence in Minnesota, Bates said.

"It's a good walk but a sad walk," she said. "The walk went really well and we had a pretty good turnout."

The walk ended at Headwaters Intervention Center, just south of downtown where walkers enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate and snacks.

Headwaters Intervention Center serves victims of domestic violence in Hubbard and Clearwater counties. HIC is welcoming Chris Swenson as the interim executive director. Swenson, who works with the Family Safety Network in Cass County, will work half time for HIC. The ultimate goal is to develop a merger of the two programs in the future.

Swenson was a volunteer advocate for HIC for several years under former executive director Audrey Iverson. Then, Iverson assisted Cass County in developing its own program more than 20 years ago. Swenson has worked for the Cass County Family Safety Network for more than 10 years.

Both HIC and FSN are in the process of adding staff to provide additional legal advocacy and direct services to the clients served by their agencies, according to HIC Board of Directors chairwoman Florence Hedeen.

The HIC has been busy this month, Bates said.

"The calls keep coming but we take it one day at a time and hope for the best," she said.

Financial donations are always needed and appreciated, Bates added. Staff is limited at the non-profit organization and volunteer help could be used as well.

Domestic violence is still a major concern in Hubbard County and across the state and nation.

According to information from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, nearly one in four women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood and each year approximately 2.3 million people are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

Domestic violence and sexual assault severely impact not only victims, but entire communities, according to the coalition. In addition to the devastating damage suffered by victims and their families, these crimes also have huge financial costs.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, enacted in 1984 by Congress, has been the foundation of the response to domestic violence victims, including shelters and outreach programs across the country.

The landmark Violence Against Women Act, first authorized in 1994, has changed the way federal, tribal, state and local entities respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

HIC encourages those who are aware of someone living with domestic violence to call the center at 732-7413 or the crisis line at 800-939-2199.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561