The Women’s Rural Advocacy Program (WRAP) along with Yellow Medicine County Victim Services recently brought a domestic violence training seminar to Yellow Medicine County. An aspect that wasn’t covered in the training was the vast array of services Yellow Medicine County has for victims.

We spoke with Julie Kosen from WRAP and Linda Hagen, the Victim Service Specialist from the Yellow Medicine County, to clear up some of the misconceptions and differences between community-based and government-based advocates.

A topic that was tricky in the domestic violence seminar was the concept of not escalating a bad situation by “tipping off” the abuser that the victim is seeking help.

WRAP has legal confidentiality, so someone seeking help won’t get “in trouble” just by reaching out.

A problem WRAP runs into often is the victim isn’t aware of how bad the situation is. They have donated phones, and educate the victim about the danger of signaling they are looking for help.

The most important thing for the victims is good decision-making.WRAP and the other services discuss and provide options, but it’s the victim’s choice on what to do.

Hagen is a Certified Application Assistant for the Safe at Home program gives an anonymous address. The contact for this program can be found at the Yellow Medicine County Courthouse.

Sometimes victims are scared to tell the whole truth, sometimes they are worried about getting charged, for example, if they were both using drugs at the time of the assault.

Another problem advocates encounter is the victim feeling trapped. They might be struggling financially, or have a child and feel like they can’t leave.

WRAP is a non-profit that services anyone who has experienced abuse (any kind - physical, mental, or emotional.) They get money from grants, state and federal funding. The services they offer are free. They do have services for men as well.

During case proceedings, Hagen works with the victims. She provides services during the victim's interactions with the criminal justice system, starting with the initial investigation by law enforcement, through prosecution and incarceration. She does not have confidentiality privileges. Victim information that is shared with government-based advocates is available to others in that government agency. Her main goal is to provide the victim with access to justice via the criminal justice system. She will be a liaison of the victim to the system, and work to increase victim safety and participation, and help them get the services the law has outlined as their rights within the system.

Kosen and others from community based advocates come from independent organizations, like WRAP. They are able to do more since they aren't tied to a government agency, though they do work together. They provide voluntary, free services to victims, as well as secondary victims, for example, children. They can do this whether or not a crime has occurred or been reported.

Their services include 24 hour access, housing, assistance with finding employment, support groups, education, safety planning, as well as civil, criminal, and legal assistance. They don't have any time limits on provision of services, it can last a lifetime if needed.

They do have confidentiality privileges. The law protects communication between the domestic violence advocate and victim, as well as victim records. The only way the advocate can share information is with consent and a written release. WRAP's main goal is to empower the victim. They are also working to improve the systems which the victims interact with through policy and training, and public education.

Julie Kosen from WRAP can be reached at 320-564-2422 or yellowmedpt@letswrap.com

Linda Hagen can be reached at 320-564-5832 or linda.hagen@co.ym.mn.gov.