The definition of “advocacy,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal: the act or process of advocating something.”
But, according to Sandi Bentley, the Executive Director for Violence Intervention Project (VIP), there’s a better definition. “A classic definition of advocacy is ‘to come alongside of’,” Bentley said. “And that’s just what we do at VIP.”
VIP serves about 500 people per year, through community programs, their Umbrella Tree service, people that stay in the shelter, women support groups, and a variety of other ways. VIP has five advocates that serve in Roseau, Pennington and Red Lake, Kittson, and Marshall Counties.
“One of the biggest ways we help people is through safety planning,” says one of the advocates, Michele. “We encourage them to have a ‘go-bag’ with essentials and an extra pair of clothes, just in case they need to leave fast.” Michele also shared that when the victim is ready to leave the abuser for good, serious injuries and even fatalities can occur. “The abuser wants the control,” she said, “and they’re willing to take back control any way they can, whether through violent assault or murder.”
For more on this story, see this week’s North Star News!