Sexual Violence Center heals wounds of ‘a rape culture’

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Small, quaint, intimate, private, relatable — words to describe the space and the open house held by the Sexual Violence Center in North Minneapolis. Annex Teen Clinic, UROC, and the Minneapolis Police Department were all a part of the many groups and organizations that attended this event held January 13.

Executive Director Kristen Houlton Sukura says, “We are a rape crisis center. We work three counties — Hennepin, Carver and Scott. We’re an advocacy agency… We’re not therapy. We are not a clinic. We do not think that because you have been raped, you need therapy, that rape is a mental health condition.

“We think rape is a result of oppression and we live in a rape culture. People exploit the power and prestige that oppression gives them to exert power over people by using sex. They are using sex as a weapon, but it is not sex.”

She added, “When you go to a nursing home, it is about oppression, it is not about sex,

romantic lusty sex. It is about control and power… We want to try to change the way

Kristen Houlton Sukura

Photos courtesy of the Sexual Violence Center

Kristen Houlton Sukura

people think… We miss a huge part [when] we only think of women as victims.”

Sukura says that SVC prides themselves “on working with people who are male-identified and trans-identified.” They are an independent agency, so that people truly feel that they can come to them.

Trina Pearson, who works at Annex as part of the Sexuality Education Community Outreach team, said, “I don’t think we have anything else like this in North Minneapolis. It’s right off the freeway, in the heart of North Minneapolis. So easy to get to. It is discreet and looks like a little house.”

The organization hours are 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Friday, and 8 am to 4 pm on Saturday. There is a 24-hour crisis hotlineThey are also open after midnight and in the early-morning hours.

Katherine Bisanz is the program director for SVC. When asked how people are referred to the program, Bisanz replied, “[We get] hospital referrals and [through] partnerships with other agencies.” SVC also gets word-of-mouth referrals. They serve ages 12 and up as well as all races and ethnicities, all gender identifications, and all sexual orientations.

Katherine says, “We truly serve everyone. We are here to make sure that that victim has a voice and to let them know someone does believe them and validates their experience.”

Leah Entenmann, crisis-line worker and administration staff, added, “We have support groups, we have our crisis line, medical advocacy and one-to-one counseling for free. We operate different than a case-management scenario. We offer confidential, anonymous services. We do not make referrals externally or internally.”

“The Sexual Violence Center staff gives clients choices and lets them decide how they prefer to proceed,” Sukura explained. “If you or someone you know wants to get involved, you will have to complete a 52-hour training, and then work a weekly four-hour shift for the first six months. Four hours for the first six months is required so [that] you are fully prepared to be an advocate in any situation. A commitment of a year is required.”

Sukura added, “We do not throw our people into the deep end. We give a thorough, in-depth, free training. We also work with therapists who used to be our interns.” They have male and transgender advocates as well.

The Sexual Violence Center is known to train staff to work with someone who has been raped recently or 30 years ago. They find out if it is a domestic violence situation, a trafficking situation, a stranger situation, or something that has happened in the past so they can truly advocate and help with resource management.

If the victim wants to get the police involved, the report must be made in the precinct where the crime occurred. If the victim goes to the hospital, they will not be tested but rather treated for STDs.

Overall, the center provides a safe place for victims and visitors, male and female, young and old, as well as serving the police and the public.

For more information about Sexual Violence Center, call 612-871-5100.

Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses to bphillips@spokesman-recorder.com.