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Hundreds rally at Capitol to end violence against women

A local group of 10 youth and nine adults met with Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (right), R-Alexandria, and Representative Mary Franson (left), R-Alexandria, to talk about domestic violence programs. Contributed photo.1 / 2
A group from Alexandria attended a rally at the state Capitol earlier this month to raise awareness of violence against women. Contributed photos by R. Scott Keehn2 / 2

More than 500 women, children, and men gathered at the state Capitol on March 6 to protest violence against women.

They called on legislators to support the programs that work in communities across Minnesota to address battering, sexual assault, stalking, sexual exploitation, and trafficking in women and girls.

"Minnesota cannot afford to compromise on public safety or health," said Sarah Deer, professor at William Mitchell College of Law and Action Day rally moderator.

The event was organized by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition, the Minnesota Network on Abuse in Later Life, the Sacred Hoop Coalition and the Minnesota Men's Action Network.

Ten youth and nine adults from Alexandria met with Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Representatives Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, and Mary Franson, R-Alexandria.

Issues involving domestic violence as it pertains to joint custody and restraining orders were discussed.

"Personal experiences of domestic violence, child abuse and stalking were shared by members of our group. These crimes of abuse have a devastating impact upon the lives of individuals," said Susan Keehn with Someplace Safe.

The rally sought to raise awareness of the destructiveness of domestic and sexual violence on Minnesota communities.

"One in every five women in Minnesota has been raped. While it costs the state $8 billion to respond to sexual violence, Minnesota spends zero dollars on sexual violence prevention," said Sarah Deer.

Deer added that the FBI has identified the Twin Cities as one of the "hotspots" for the sex trafficking of children and noted that the average age when a Minnesota girl is first prostituted is age 13.

More than one in three women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by their intimate partner, Deer said.

"These are sobering statistics that make it clear that our work is not done," she said. "Now is the time to make our voices heard. Minnesota cannot afford to compromise on public safety or health."

Keehn said that in 2011, more than 800 community members have been served in Douglas County by Someplace Safe. These individuals requested assistance with domestic violence, sexual violence or general crimes.

The event also included a focus on youth and their role in ending violence against women in Minnesota.

Speaker Pheng Thao said, "As we come together to do the hard work of ending violence against women, it is imperative that we examine the social environment in which so many boys are growing into men who abuse women."

The rally closed with youth gathering at the podium to be recognized for their work in communities to end violence against women. The youth were wearing "Girls Are Not for Sale" T-shirts, which is part of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota's five-year campaign to end the sex trafficking of girls in Minnesota.

"These youth are an inspiration," Deer said. "They are the future. They want to be the future that is free of violence against women and children."

Speakers recognized legislators who attended the rally and expressed their support.

"Today, we ask our policy makers here at the Capitol to stand with us, to support us, to work with us and to not compromise on public safety and health," said Deer.

Someplace Safe staff can be reached locally by calling (320) 762-1995. Confidential services are available at no cost for those needing assistance with domestic violence, sexual assault or general crimes.