It's people. The Safer Tomorrows Road Map (STR) is chalk-full of an aggressive vision any nonprofit leader could get excited about pursuing. What makes it special is the people determined to bring it to life. It's clear it was collectively written by incredibly passionate and gifted leaders who want to continue building on a dream to eradicate violence. I can't think of a more invigorating or challenging vision to pursue.
From what I saw throughout the interview process and my own research of CVIC, I'm blessed to be a part of an organization with such a healthy history of developing programs and services that are directly aligned with mission impact. The team and the community have a great deal to be proud of in terms of what they have done for Grand Forks County families. Maintaining CVIC's strengths (of which there are many) is important to me. Where I see opportunity is enhancing what is working and sharing more of the "why" behind our work.
Throughout my career and personal life, I have been blessed by incredible friends and impeccable leaders who understand their contributions serve a higher calling and purpose. This requires constant self-reflection, at times tough love and, when appropriate, causes for celebration. I try to be open to all three as much as I can. A single mom of 15 years, I am fortunate to raise a tremendous 17-year-old daughter. It's been an honor to watch her grow and develop into a young woman who will leave for college in the fall of 2020. The powerful path that Kristi Hall-Jiran and her team have carved provides tremendous hope for what's ahead. I can't wait to see what the team will do next, and I feel fortunate to be a part of CVIC's future.
As I shared with various stakeholders during the interview process, I would like to first observe, listen and understand. At first blush, I see opportunities to expand our vision beyond Grand Forks County and to tell our two-generational impact story to a larger audience. The community teamwork supporting CVIC's mission is remarkable and, in many ways, a standard for excellence. I’d like to work with our team and partners to potentially expand on this.
A life in hiding. At just 15 years old, it’s what Olive* knew—along with the years of her dad’s threats and physical assaults against her mom. Worried about her abusive dad finding her and her mom, Olive lived in fear. After therapy, Olive's mom shares 'I have my girl back! She is a different child.'
Olive and her mom fled the violence several years ago, moving in secret. But the trauma and fear from the past continued to creep into their lives. Olive’s mom checks the locks on her doors to this day, worried that her ex-partner will find and hurt them.
Olive struggles to cope with the trauma
But when Olive struggled to go to school, fearing abandonment and terrified to leave her mom’s side for even a few minutes, her mom called us at CVIC. “Can you help my daughter?” she pleaded. Olive was depressed and overcome by anxiety and post- traumatic stress symptoms. She sometimes became aggressive, slamming doors and throwing objects. She held tightly onto negative thoughts such as, “It’s my fault,” and worried that she’d turn out like her dad because she also felt angry.
At CVIC, everything changes for Olive
Olive and our youth therapist met for 11 months, with her mom attending some sessions to learn how to normalize Olive's behaviors and to show support in a way to facilitate healing. With his calming presence, our therapy dog-in-training, Louie, also helped Olive to share her most painful memories.
We are happy to report that Olive is now a changed girl, with no symptoms of anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
With tears of joy in her eyes, Olive's mom shared, "I have my girl back! She is a different child than even 10 months ago."
Olive praised Louie, saying it was"easier coming to therapy knowing that Louie was going to be with me every time. I now know that what happened was not my fault, and I'm really happy to have my mom to talk to."
Grand Forks Police officer Brandan Steffan sat down with CVIC to talk about what it's like for law enforcement officers to respond to 911 domestic violence calls and how our partnership helps keep people safe.
As law enforcement, we can keep them safe for the time being, but we aren't able to help them with safety in the long run. CVIC can."
Domestics are one of the most dangerous calls we get, so I always take an approach that’s as safe as possible. I park a couple houses down, I make sure there’s some kind of cover between me and the house, whether it’s trees, mailboxes, or other vehicles, because domestics are the unknown. We don’t know what is going to happen upon approach. As officers, we always play the “what if” game—if this happens, this is how I’m going to react, if that happens, I’ll do something else. It’s very hard because every situation is so different.
I keep my lethality card in my pocket. We have 12 questions that we go through and ask (the victim), and I read them word for word. The first three are the most important to me (1. Has he/she ever used a weapon against you? 2. Has he/she ever threatened you or your kids? 3. Do you think he/she might try to kill you?). I’ll ask the lethality questions, and most of the time, it provokes a call to a CVIC advocate (who then can provide safety services).
LAP gives me a sense of security, not only in my job but also for the victims we’re dealing with. If I know they’re in danger but I don’t know if they need shelter, the LAP questions really help me determine that. And when the person talks with the CVIC advocate, it makes me feel better about leaving them there. It helps to know we’ve collaborated and we’ve come up with a game plan to get them into shelter and
whatever they need to stay safe.
As officers, we deal with everything as it’s happening in the heat of the moment. But once we leave, we really have no other involvement with these people until we get called back. For me to hand someone a card and get them connected to CVIC, I know that CVIC will help them get a protection order, help them get somewhere safe, whatever they need to be safe for the long run. As law enforcement, we can keep them safe for the time being, but we aren’t able to help them with safety in the long run. CVIC can.
I’ve talked with one person who needed to leave her boyfriend who was abusive, but she couldn’t because of the lease on their apartment. She got in touch with CVIC, and CVIC helped her get out of the lease and get her away from the guy and a new apartment through housing assistance. So just being able to get away from the violence of the suspect is huge when it comes to safety.
If there is a weapon and it’s been used or they’ve been threatened with a weapon, and we know our suspect has that weapon, we would usually try to take the weapon and put it into safe keeping as evidence at the police department. If the suspect has fled with a weapon, we’ll get the victim in touch with CVIC and get them into shelter for their safety.
Shelter is a good tool for us with domestics that involve physical violence. If the suspect has fled on foot and we don’t know where they’re at and we can’t find them, I like having shelter as an option; it gives peace of mind for us and them.
When I started in 2017, my field training officers had used LAP, so we were trained through the department, and we’ve also had trainings with CVIC. CVIC comes in to some of our quarterly trainings and keeps us up to date.
The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) is an evidence-based intervention to assess whether cases have a high risk of lethality and to connect those in danger with safety services. CVIC implements LAP with its dedicated law enforcement partners: Grand Forks Police Department: Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department; UND Police Department; Northwood Police Department
CVIC advocates partner with law enforcement in the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) to assist people calling 911 for help from violence at home.
“These situations are so intense because the incident just happened,” on-call advocate Becca said. “Being able to help somebody start to think through what their next steps are and to get them to safety is something that honestly has the potential to change a life.”
LAP: FROM ASSESSMENT TO SERVICES
Law enforcement officers responding to 911 calls for domestic violence conduct a lethality assessment. If victims are determined to be at high risk of danger, the officers connect them with an on-call advocate right at the scene, with calls dispatched directly from the officer’s phone through a call center to an advocate, said Megan, CVIC’s law enforcement advocate.
The officer provides the advocate important information, such as whether the offender has been arrested or has fled the scene, to use in safety planning.
“Our immediate concern is making sure they’re safe, whether they want to stay in their home because the offender has been arrested or if they want to go to our shelter,” Megan said. Once they are safe, Megan follows up with them the next day to help them make arrangements for other services, such as a protection order, long-term housing, and legal or other services.
LOCAL LAP PROGRAM IS UNIQUE
The CVIC-law enforcement partnership is what makes the project so successful, Becca said. “I’m proud to be a part of the mutual
respect that advocates and law enforcement have for each other,” she said.
Gate City Bank in Grand Forks will make a three-year investment to sponsor the launch of Green Dot, an innovative bystander intervention program.
“Gate City Bank is proud to partner with CVIC to end violence in our community,” Senior Vice President Ryan Coye said. “The bank’s investment in CVIC and the Green Dot program will provide our community members with a better way of life.”
CVIC is bringing the program to the area as part of its Safer Tomorrows Road Map initiative to virtually end local violence in two generations, partnering with Altru Health System and others to carry out violence prevention activities.
The Green Dot program engages the community through education and awareness events, with a goal of permanently reducing rates of violence and empowering residents to proactively engage in healthy relationships. In addition to training and education programs, Green Dot: Greater Grand Forks will sponsor the Green Dot Trot on Sept. 7 and other awareness events throughout the year.
“We are grateful to Gate City for providing leadership and inspiration toward building a community in which all people are safe and respected,” said Coiya Tompkins, CVIC president/CEO. “Gate City’s investment will directly impact our efforts to reduce violence.”