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A group of Alexandria residents traveled to the state Capitol to attend Action Day to End Violence Against Women. (Contributed photo)

Alexandria woman shares experience of Action Day at Capitol to end domestic violence

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Editor's note: The following story was written by Catie Houck of Alexandria, a crime victim advocate with Someplace Safe.

The 2013 Action Day to End Violence Against Women was held Tuesday, March 12 at the Minnesota State Capitol.

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Action Day is a collective effort by six statewide coalitions - the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, Sacred Hoop, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition, Minnesota Network on Abuse in Later Life, and Minnesota Men's Action Network. It raises awareness about the prevalence and devastating impact of violence against women in Minnesota.

The purpose of this event is to educate everyone, including elected officials, about issues surrounding violence against women and children. The hope is for legislators to hear and understand personal stories, the issues, and the value of crime victim services, and to support legislative actions that continue to support crime victim service programs both statutorily and financially.

Eighteen Action Day attendees included representatives of organizations working to end violence, as well as survivors, friends, families, advocates and allies working to end violence.

The hope is that together we will show a unified voice as we share our stories and work together for change.

Again this year, Someplace Safe advocates [in Alexandria] arranged for a bus to transport individuals to the State Capitol for Action Day. This year's attendees included Someplace Safe advocates, staff, and volunteers; community members, and area students.

This one-day event consisted of meetings with legislators, a men's rally, and culminated in a powerful rally in the State Capitol's rotunda. This year's goal was to send a clear message to our legislators that we need continued funding for services.

Public safety is a core function of government and builds stable communities and needs to remain a priority. Domestic and sexual violence are public health issues carrying with them a lifelong impact on survivors. Minnesota has been and continues to be a leader in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault issues, but basic services have been cut, leaving victims without services and communities destabilized. We need to be able to continue to provide services to victims.

As a first-time attendee of Action Day, it was amazing. I had to make calls to the local legislators that I needed to meet with and I was scared. I have never been in front of a legislator to talk about domestic violence or anything else before. We boarded the bright yellow school bus on a windy, chilly day and once everyone was there, we were on our way.

It was a great ride there with all the conversation and energy. Once we arrived, we hurried up a long uphill sidewalk and then a bunch of stairs. I looked at the Capitol and was wowed by how big it was and how many people were there.

Once we found where we were going, we had a learning session with the six statewide coalitions. Once that was done, they sent us off to find our legislators. Two of mine were busy, so I dropped off Someplace Safe material to them. Then the third one I was able to talk with. Again, I was nervous, but once we started talking I realized he is a human also.

Representative Mark Anderson was excited about what we are doing within Someplace Safe to help victims and I am hoping to see him more often. There was a men's rally that was supported by men, women and youth. Then there was the main rally where the six state coalitions came together in the rotunda to end domestic violence.

There were people everywhere. They were sitting, standing and were above the rotunda with posters. There were youth, men, women, advocates, family and friends of survivors and those who lost their lives. We all came together to make noise in the Capitol to bring an end to domestic violence.

We came to educate our legislators about what is taking place in our communities. We listened to speakers who got the crowd cheering in support of ending domestic violence.

It was powerful, amazing, and a day to never forget. Thank you to all who attended. If you get a chance next year, come join us.

Thank you to the following legislators for meeting with us and listening to the important message we were there to share: Rep. Paul Anderson, Rep. Jay McNamar, Sen. Torrey Westrom, Rep. Mary Fransen, Rep. Mark Anderson, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, and Rep. Bud Nornes.

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