Because Brainerd has been able to provide services to battered women and children, representatives from the Women's Center of Mid-Minnesota and the new Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center have been sharing information with a domestic abuse team from Muldova in the former Soviet Union.
The CONNECT program, whose goal is to promote a more human and peaceful world by engaging critical issues facing the United States and the former Soviet Union through the creation of collaborative relationships, sent a team of Muldovan professionals to Minnesota to strengthen their knowledge of dealing with domestic violence. The group has been in Brainerd since Monday, working with the women's shelter and child center. While here, they are learning the best way to develop a response to domestic abuse in a rural area.
The team has come from the city of Hincesti, Muldova, a rural community in the former Soviet Union. They will not be building a shelter in Hincesti, but a crisis center is already operating.
"In Muldova, the issue of abuse is just starting to be talked about, but it's changing quickly," said Susan Hartman, executive director of CONNECT. "They are where we were 20 years ago."
In Muldova, where people are just starting to talk about domestic violence, officials are in the process of developing all aspects of a violence intervention program, including police arrests and monitoring, active prosecution, a responsive court system, relevant legislation, therapy groups for men, women and children affected by abuse, education of the adult community and young people, and physician training.
The Muldovans have moved quickly in the last few years. Two teams have already visited the United States gathering information. Since last summer, they have drafted new laws, formed two crisis centers, are training police, physicians, psychologists and students, and are operating rural and urban hotlines.
A visit to the Brainerd facilities brought out questions of procedure and education. In a session Monday afternoon, the team asked questions of Louise Seliski, executive director of the women's shelter and child center. They asked for advice on the best way to get an educational campaign out in the open.
"Don't get discouraged. I'm not sure how it is in Muldova, but here people want to bury the issue. Women want to lie about it," said Seliski.
The CONNECT program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Department of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, is exposing the team to a variety of places where domestic abuse is dealt with, rural and urban. While in Brainerd, the group toured the women's shelter; met with Sue Beck, director of Crow Wing County Social Services; met with Don Ryan, the Crow Wing County attorney; met with Bruce London of the Brainerd Police Department; met Judge Fredrick Casey; toured the jail; will tour the Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center; and will work with the P.A.L.S. program in Brainerd elementary schools.
"Their programs in Muldova will move very quickly because they are getting training from people who know what they are doing," said Hartman.
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