Violence Free MN is a state-wide coalition consisting of 90+ member agencies that provide direct services to domestic violence victims/survivors and enact social change within the community. Membership in Violence Free MN offers member agencies access to regional meetings, conferences, and an opportunity to reach out for help if needed. While the coalition staff themselves do not provide direct services, they focus on social change through prevention, policy advocacy, and housing and economic justice efforts.
Violence Free MN does work to transform the criminal legal system to reduce the criminalization of survivors. We are also trying to get funding for domestic abuse transformation programming efforts, which are services and support programs to help individuals transform their abusive behavior. VFMN has a housing and economic justice fund that survivors can apply for. We also provide training to professionals on responding to intimate partner violence and are active on social media spreading our resources. VFMN publishes a yearly homicide report and participates in a variety of advisory boards so that youth and survivors can provide input on decisions.
I used to work at a domestic violence shelter and admired VFMN from afar. The main reason I chose to officially make the switch was because of the homicide report VFMN puts together. The report allowed me to be involved on a broader scale and I was able to better recognize and memorialize victims of domestic violence. I now get to work on the report every year.
At our professional trainings, there is always one story we make sure to tell. Once there was a woman who frequently came into the ER with asthma flare ups. The attending doctor was confused as to why she kept having to come in as he knew that the inhaler should be working. She proceeded to ask her a variety of questions including about her relationship. She then learned that her husband often blows smoke in her face and hides her inhaler. The doctor was able to then properly help her by giving her more inhalers, helping her come up with a safety plan, and providing domestic violence resources. This story emphasizes why it’s important for providers to look at patients holistically and not just at their physical ailments.
The main thing we want is for healthcare professionals to know that Violence Free MN exists as a resource. Our website has a lot of information on what domestic violence is, how you assess it,
and what the protocols are to appropriately deal with it. (https://www.vfmn.org/healthcareresourcehub). VFMN also encourage providers to connect directly with their local domestic violence office as these offices are the boots on the ground. As for support, we do have a donation link (https://www.vfmn.org/donate), but we prefer that you donate to our member agencies instead as they are a direct resource.
MN has historically been a leader in the domestic violence prevention movement. The
first domestic violence shelter in the US was actually in Minnesota. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Our movement has historically prioritized reliance on the criminal legal system rather than supporting the needs and wellbeing of survivors of color and culturally specific communities and resources, and as a movement we need to center their voices and needs and invest in new approaches. We also wish there was more legislative support on prevention vs. reaction.
Youth and Prevention Program Manager at Violence Free Minnesota