Virtually everyone from east-central Minnesota is familiar with Window Victim Services in Hinckley. They have been providing safe, specialized and accessible services to survivors of domestic assault and sexual violence for 33 years.
Window has been a triumph. Consider its 2018 results: In only one year, 1 in 50 people in the entire Senate district were directly helped by Window's services. This is a staggering achievement. Last year, it advocated for 961 primary and 88 secondary crime victims; served 509 primary and 69 secondary victims of domestic violence; supported 57 primary and 27 secondary victims of sexual assault; supervised 95 children at visitation centers; and nurses within their innovative sexual assault nurse examiners program provided rapid crisis response to 28 sexual assault survivors.
It is a testament to the outsized impact a small organization can have on a community. Unfortunately, Window is at risk of being shut down by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
Window is funded by grants from OJP, and thus must resubmit its grant application every five years. This guarantees a transparent, fair process. However, OJP has threatened to cut off Window's funding despite the fact it is only on Year 3 of its five-year cycle.
Even though Window has thrived for more than three decades, OJP is concerned that Window's board has not been providing adequate oversight, financial stability and administrative capacity.
OJP has already begun the process of putting out a request for proposal to replace Window and has launched an open-bid process for the final two years of Window's term.
Window has been working to address these concerns by having the current board members take new training; bringing on a new board member who is an incredible addition; and hiring a new staff member to handle administrative requirements.
What is most disappointing is that OJP has not taken any of this into account when making its decision.
That is why Window could use your help. Window is always looking for new volunteers with a variety of skill sets to help with their mission. Contact me and I'd be happy to help you through the process of connecting with Window.
Most importantly though, I would encourage you to reach out to Commissioner John Harrington at the DPS, Kate Weeks at the Office of Justice Programs and Gov. Walz to let them know how important Window is to our community and to east-central Minnesota. Ask it to reconsider the request for proposal; let Window serve out the final two years of its funding cycle; and give it a fair shake when the bid is up for renewal two years from now.
Window is just as important to our community as it is to the victims that it serves. It would be a shame if domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors lost this important resource due only to bureaucratic disputes. It will take years for a new group to establish the programs and community relationships that Window has developed. Victims of assault need services like those provided by Window to deal with the trauma and stigma of an assault.
Those who work and volunteer for these programs bring their services to victims with love and caring attitudes that help victims face the depression and guilt that follows such assaults.
I have a great fear that any new group that may come in to replace Window will be doing so as a means to provide jobs for friends in administrative positions, not to provide true care to victims in our counties. I hope that I am wrong about this, but I have witnessed far too much of this around government programs to at least not have some worry that this is the case.
The stories that I have heard from so many who have been helped by Window make your heart hurt when you hear what some women have had to endure, yet they give you great hope at the same time when you hear how others have reached out to support them. Carlton, Kanabec and Pine counties are fortunate to have these programs run by such amazing people, we cannot just stand by and watch their existence be threatened.
Please join me in reaching out to those who will be making the decision as to the fate of Window, and let them know how important this organization is to our area. Let them know you will step up to help as well.
Also, let those who work and volunteer for Window know how grateful you are for the service that they provide with such love.
Commissioner John Harrington
Department of Public Safety
Executive director, Office of Justice Programs
Gov. Tim Walz
Sen. Jason Rarick represents District 11 in the Minnesota Senate.