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Letter: WINDOW on brink of closure

To the editor,

For 33 years, WINDOW has served crime victims and their families in Carlton, Kanabec and Pine counties. There is a high likelihood you or someone you know — a family member, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker — received services from WINDOW at some point.

From presentations to students at our schools, community outreach and awareness events, to the 24-hour crisis hotline, WINDOW is woven into the fabric of our community.

Despite decades of providing high-quality, effective services to victims and children of Carlton, Kanabec and Pine counties, our state government is withdrawing funding from WINDOW that will result in its closure. This is a devastating loss for nearly 2,000 victims served by WINDOW each year.

Residents of Carlton, Kanabec and Pine counties will no longer have peace of mind knowing there is a safe haven filled with knowledgeable, experienced advocates available to them if they ever find themselves in a time of need.

We believe, with your help, we can reverse this decision. Together, we can save WINDOW.

Please contact Gov. Walz's office and the offices of your elected officials to encourage them to reinstate funding eligibility to WINDOW. If a community pillar such as WINDOW were to close, we would lose an agency that can identify the unique needs of our communities and respond with knowledge, expertise and innovation.

A few years ago, there were no trauma-informed healthcare services available to victims of sexual assault in our community. Even when a medical practitioner who was comfortable performing a forensic exam was available at the hospital, it was often rushed, and victims were not given the time and space to make decisions based on their own self-defined needs.

WINDOW responded by partnering with community nurses, emergency department directors, law enforcement and prosecutors to develop a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program that functions at all four hospitals in WINDOW's three-county service area.

Now, trained sexual assault nurse examiners and sexual assault advocates work in teams to provide medical exams, collect evidence in a way that preserves it for prosecution, and offer emotional and physical support to assault survivors.

Thanks to that process, regional county attorneys' offices can more rigorously charge cases involving sexual assault since there is better evidence and victims-witnesses who feel supported and informed of their rights.

These collaborations helped 28 survivors in the last year alone. The loss of WINDOW means the loss of much-needed advocacy to change the way places like hospitals respond to victims of sexual and domestic violence.

Our elected officials need to hear what the loss of WINDOW will mean to you and your family. In addition to Gov. Walz, state representatives Nathan Nelson and Mike Sundin; state Sen. Jason Rarick; U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber; and U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith each need to know that WINDOW's services are vital to the taxpaying citizens of Carlton, Kanabec and Pine counties.

We can't let victims and their children experience further harm because there is nowhere to turn. We value — and deserve — safe communities. When our government revokes funding from the only crime victims service agency in three counties, we are left to wonder what other local services the government will deem unnecessary.

Be a voice for victims: Save WINDOW.

For more information about this situation or if you need contact information for your representative, please contact me at 320-384-7113.

Sincerely,

Lisa Lilja

Executive director, WINDOW