SWCC's Annual Meeting is November 2
The Southwest Crisis Center will hold its Annual Meeting on Monday, November 2 at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at 1527 Prairie Drive in Worthington (U of M Extension Office Site). For more information, please contact Sara Wahl, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fit for a cause: Run or walk the MK5K
By Jane Moore on Aug 2, 2015 at 8:55 p.m.
WORTHINGTON — With the seventh annual Mary Kay 5K and Family Fun Walk a little more than a week away, well-intentioned joggers might find there’s still time to get themselves in racing shape. But if not, walking the route (it begins and ends at the Nobles County Fairgrounds at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13) is always an option. Whether participants choose to speed or saunter, they can all be assured they’re supporting a worthy cause while fitting in a bit of exercise — before hitting the fair’s food booths.
“At least 50 percent of the proceeds stays right here in Nobles County with the Southwest Crisis Center’s safe housing fund,” said Teresa Widboom, a Mary Kay senior sales director and coordinator of the local MK5K. “The remainder goes to the Mary Kay Foundation, which is dedicated to ending both women’s cancers and domestic abuse.”
Widboom started the MK5K several years ago, saying she is “happy to be part of the Mary Kay sales force that allows us to spearhead fundraising efforts like this. “Our family is very much a part of the fair, and our kids are involved in 4-H, so the Nobles County Fair seemed like a good venue for an event like this,” Widboom continued. “With the help of other Mary Kay consultants and additional volunteers, this has become a good tradition.” Widboom was further inspired to join forces three years ago with the Southwest Crisis Center (SWCC) after locating her Mary Kay office on Diagonal Road a few doors down from the center. “That gave us a better grip on what the SWCC staff is doing to help women who are victims of domestic violence and other crisis situations,” said Widboom.
Sara Wahl, SWCC’s executive director, explains the center’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, so by late summer it is often “pretty close to running out of available funds for safe housing,” Wahl said. “Safe housing doesn’t mean just physical housing,” clarified Wahl while also noting the SWCC doesn’t have a devoted shelter for women and families in crisis. “It includes food, and food for children, clothing for women and children, maybe diapers and medication refills they didn’t have time to grab when running out of a home, and other emergency needs.” Additionally, “violence in general escalates during the summer months, and we’ve been really busy serving women who are not only in need of safe housing but also in need of other services or advocacy efforts.” Wahl said more than half of the SWCC’s safe housing dollars are spent from May through September, and that the SWCC safe-housed someone on every date during the month of June. “We can only provide safe housing for each client for two nights, and that’s not a long time for someone in a crisis situation to make a plan, find a new place to stay and leave an abuser,” said Wahl.
It costs the SWCC a minimum of $150 to safe house a family of three (typically, a mom and two children) for one night. “Safe housing is a huge need in rural Minnesota,” Wahl stressed.
With its healthy focus on family fun and fitness and a registration fee that goes entirely to the designated causes (due to generous sponsorships from area businesses that cover the event’s operating expenses), the MK5K provides a much-needed boost to the SWCC’s safe housing fund at a critical time of year.
“Sadly, there is a need for services like those offered at the SWCC, but because there is an existing need, we want to help them have the money to meet it,” said Widboom. “The SWCC staff says there is always need for more support, and it’s good we can help them out in this way and build some awareness of the problems.” Widboom is grateful to the other Mary Kay consultants and multiple volunteers who make the annual MK5K run smoothly, and she’s hopeful the Aug. 13 event can exceed the 150 participants it hosted in 2014. “There’s so much more joy in collaboration, and not only do our volunteers make it all easier, but hooking arms with fabulous women who are really giving back to the community from their hearts and working together for an important cause is what makes this so fantastic,” Widboom said.
She cited the national statistic that one in four women are involved in domestic abuse situations. “We all have women in our lives who are dealing with the struggles of being in problematic relationships,” Widboom said. “This is very relevant, and it’s critical we assist where we can.”
Added Wahl, “The MK5K is an easy way to support a local organization, but it makes a big impact.”
The seventh annual Mary Kay 5K and Family Fun Walk will take place at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Nobles County Fairgrounds, Worthington. On-site registration and packet pick-up begin at 6 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Mary Kay Foundation and the Southwest Crisis Center’s Safe Housing Initiative, and proceeds from a youth-sponsored lemonade stand at the site will also be contributed to the SWCC. A discounted registration fee is available online until midnight tonight at mnswcc.org.
Behind closed doors: A look at sexual exploitation
By Robin Baumgarn on Jul 3, 2015 at 4:43 p.m.
WORTHINGTON — It’s not all “Pretty Woman.”
Last week, the Daily Globe reported on a prostitution sting that netted the arrest of six men, conducted by the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies. One often-overlooked aspect of this story — and similar stories — is the lives of women, children and even men who are trapped in the world of human trafficking. Although prostitution is often glamorized on television and in films (like Julia Roberts’ famed performance), fact is a far cry from fiction.
The average age of juveniles entering the world of prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old. Sexual exploitation goes beyond solely prostitution. Youths are often forced to work in strip clubs, perform sexual acts on videotape and more. When all of these acts are taken into consideration, it makes the issue of exploitation more prevalent than many may think.
“I think it’s more prevalent than what people want to admit or see,” said Juli Fast, regional navigator for the Safe Harbor program. “I think it looks really different and sometimes unrecognizable because it is masked as domestic violence, because it is masked as a sexual assault, because it is masked as survival or a troubled youth or drugs. “It’s used in exchange for drugs; it’s used in exchange for rent; it’s used in exchange for all of these things that don’t take place at a hotel,” Fast added. “If that’s the case, we don’t call it trafficking or exploitation — it’s survival. “When we … take all of these pieces and put them all together in one, and we can totally shift our mindset and say that all of these things are encompassed in sexual exploitation, we get a totally different picture.”
Sara Wahl, executive director of the Southwest Crisis Center, confirmed that youth sexual exploitation has occurred in southwest Minnesota in the past year, including Nobles County. “We’ve worked with youths in the last year throughout our service area of 18 counties,” Wahl said. “We’ve identified youths ... as being sexually exploited and trafficked.”
One of the myths of the sex trade is that the majority of women who are prostitutes choose it as a profession. Wahl and Fast say less than two percent of women who sell themselves do so of their own accord. However, Wahl and Fast contend it is that two percent that society is inundated with in movies, television and other forms of media. The glamorization of the lifestyle depicts a high level of profitability by engaging in prostitution. “Perhaps it is (profitable) for them,” Wahl said. “They have a level of power and control over their situation that most women and girls (who are prostituted) don’t have.”
Prostitution stings are one tool law enforcement officials use to combat sexual exploitation. As johns are caught, the goal is to lower the demand for sexually exploited women and children. What local law enforcement has learned from the recent sting is the demand for commercial sex is not something only found in urban areas.
“What prompted it more than anything was the training we had with Juli (Fast) last October. … That’s what prompted it to see what kind of demand we have here,” Nobles County Sheriff’s Deputy Lonnie Roloff said. “These girls that are victims (are) telling us it’s everywhere. You may not think it is, but it is. “It’s out in the rural areas just as much as it is in Minneapolis/St. Paul,” Roloff continued. “There is a demand.”
Roloff pointed out that some people have the misconception that prostitution is a victimless crime. With misconceptions portrayed in media of prostitution being a choice, it’s not uncommon for it to be seen as a contract between consenting adults. “It’s not,” Roloff said bluntly. “The problem is these girls end up in it at a very young age. They might be 25, 26, 27 when we catch up with them or when they finally want to get out, but they’ve been in it for 10 years already. They’ve been in it from the age of 15 and 14 and younger, maybe. So that’s where it isn’t a victimless crime. “Once they are in, we are finding out talking to these girls it is really hard for them to get out,” he added. “They are being controlled, number one. Their money is usually being controlled by somebody else, so they can’t just get up and decide, ‘I’m done with this. I’m going to go.’
“It’s not the glamour shot of ‘Pretty Woman.’”
Victims of exploitation -- or people who suspect they know a victim -- are encouraged to contact the Southwest Crisis Center at 1-800-376-4311. The phone line is available 24/7 and is confidential and anonymous. The SWCC can also be contacted through Facebook by searching SWCC Youth Outreach.
Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law
In 2014, Minnesota’s Safe Harbor law went into effect. The law clearly identifies that youth who engage in prostitution are no longer criminals, but rather victims and survivors of sexual exploitation. Specifically, the law:
From Surviving to Thriving-Speaker Coming to Worthington April 7
The Southwest Crisis Center, along with the Nobles County Integration Collaborative and Minnesota West acknowledge April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, by presenting From Surviving to Thriving: A Sexual Assault Survivor’s Story on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:00pm in the student commons area of the Worthington campus. Captain Flynn will share information on sexual assault in Worthington and the greater Nobles County community while Jolene Loetcher will share her story of how she went from surviving to thriving. Jolene is a thriving survivor of child sexual assault at the hands of a respected business owner and trusted family friend. She first spoke publicly about her experience in 2011. Jolene founded Selfspiration, an organization which “creates camps for survivors of child sexual abuse and gives a voice to girls and boys who feel theirs may be gone.” Jolene’s legislative advocacy helped repeal South Dakota’s statute of limitations on rapes of children younger than 13. Jolene has also been instrumental in the passage of Jolene’s Law, which created a task force to look at child sexual abuse and create a set of best practices for handling disclosure and investigation, and continues to fight to keep the task force alive. Jolene’s story is one of inspiration and hope for all affected by sexual violence. Please join us in acknowledging all survivors, those who speak out and the many more who hold their experience in unbroken silence. For more information contact Kari Voss-Drost at the SWCC at 507-376-4311 or email email@example.com.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Trainings April 28 and 29
The Southwest Crisis Center is partnering with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault to provide two free trainings to members of the medical profession who conduct sexual assault medical forensic exams. The trainings, which will take place April 28 and 29, will equip healthcare professionals with the knowledge to perform sexual assault medical forensic examinations using tools and expertise participants already have. After completing this training, participants will have decreased anxiety and heightened confidence when conducting medical forensic exams. This training can be considered an introduction to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training and is meant for nurses and doctors who perform sexual assault exams. Click here for more information and to register.
Save the Date! Annual Faces of Hope Banquet & Fundraiser
April 17, 2015
National Guard Armory
About the Faces of Hope
The Southwest Crisis Center is seeking nominations for our Faces of Hope Fundraiser Banquet, which honors individuals who have made a difference in the lives of victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in Southwest Minnesota. Up to five nominees from Southwest Minnesota will be chosen and honored at an awareness banquet scheduled for April 17, 2015 in Luverne.
Southwest Crisis Center Seeking Board Members
The Southwest Crisis Center is a nonprofit organization that has provided advocacy services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and their children in Southwest Minnesota since 1984. The mission of our agency is to provide hope, help, and support to victims and survivors in Jackson, Cottonwood, Nobles, Rock, and Pipestone counties. We believe in what we do and feel called and inspired to do it every day. We are seeking others who believe in our mission to join us. We are currently looking for interested individuals to serve a two-year term on our Board of Directors beginning in January of 2014. The Board of Directors meets 6 times per year (including at an Annual Meeting) and members give about 8 hours per month. Members must reside in one of the five counties we serve.
For more information or to apply please call Sara Wahl, Executive Director at 507-376-4311.
Board of Directors Job Description
Minnesota Department of Health Funds Southwest Crisis Center to Coordinate Services for Sexually Exploited Youth
Southwest Minnesota, known for its agriculture and prairie land, is not typically viewed as a place where sexual exploitation of youth is occurring. However, the Southwest Crisis Center (SWCC), a domestic and sexual assault response agency based in Worthington, knew better. They and project partners New Horizons Crisis Center and the Committee Against Domestic Assault applied to host one of eight “Regional Navigators” to coordinate services for sexually exploited/trafficked youth in the 18 southern and western most counties of Minnesota. In May, the Minnesota Department of Health awarded the Worthington-based non-profit $80,000 to do just that. The grant coincides with the new Safe Harbor Law that went into effect August 1 that treats youth under the age of 18 who engage in prostitution as victims in need of services versus criminals. Furthermore, the funding will assist systems professionals and community members in identifying youth who are being sexually exploited or who are at higher risk for sexual exploitation. Juli Fast, a Southwest Minnesota native, has been hired as the SW Minnesota Regional Navigator and point of contact to help the SWCC and other key stakeholders coordinate a response that better serves youth in light of the new law. Fast will be able to connect youth with trauma-informed resources in their area including housing, basic needs, mental health, chemical health, education, and employment services. In addition, she will work with youth, educators, service providers, law enforcement, and community members on coordinating a trauma-informed response through trainings, protocols, and developing a task force to better serve the needs of youth in the region.
Southwest Minnesota Regional Map
No Wrong Door/Safe Harbor Information
Contact the Southwest Minnesota Regional Navigator
Faces of Hope Banquet 2014
The Faces of Hope banquet took place on April 5, 2014. The Faces of Hope Nominees were (left to right):
Luann Bosma, Pipestone County
Donna Marcy, Cottonwood County
Barb Spaeth, Jackson County
Connie Wieneke, Rock County
Sally & David Benson, Nobles County
Thank you for your support!
24 Hour Safe Line: 800-376-4311 Worthington: 507-376-4311 Pipestone: 507-825-5688 Luverne: 507-283-9917 Windom: 507-831-2244