Our Stories

Jessica’s Story

Jessica entered DAP Advocate Makenzie’s office looking for healing after a long, exhausting journey. She was finally ready to ask for support from someone.

30 years was how long Jessica was abused by her partner. 30 years trying for a few months at a time to leave, but ultimately having to go back. Financial control kept her from gaining stability on her own and for her children. Her partner would cut off access to her money.

Faced with overwhelming hurdles, Jessica didn’t know where to start: shelter, employment, childcare, safety, basic needs?

Staying seemed easier.

She could endure the abuse for the sake of her children.

When things were good, her abuser would build her up, give her an allowance, and provide luxuries that would otherwise be impossible— but within two weeks, the relationship always shifted.

Drugs and alcohol started being used as a means for power and control over Jessica’s physical autonomy, and gaslighting was used to control her mind.

Jessica was stuck.

Years later, once all five adult-children moved out of their family home and at the time that was right, DAP’s Little Earth advocate and other on-site community resources were available to assist Jessica as she successfully exited her abusive relationship.

She left the relationship feeling broken and full of self-doubt.

When she met with Makenzie, she began her healing journey through strengths-based and holistic services. Makenzie went with her to court; helped her connect to DAP’s other programs; and supported her to regain the autonomy stolen from her.

After meeting for a few weeks Makenzie did an activity with Jessica called the “Marvelous Marble Activity,” where she hands a small stone to the client and asks them to name the things they love about themselves, and to name their strengths.

Together they named attributes like: strong woman, strong mother, kind, courageous, patient, and forgiving. Till today Jessica keeps it as a symbol and reminder of her many strengths.

A few weeks later they checked in and talked about the stone; Jessica said that she made a rattle and included the rock in her rattle—so whenever she uses her rattle in ceremony she has that reminder.

Because of you, Jessica was able to find safety and stability. She could be her full authentic self. She could heal.

DAP’s Little Earth Advocacy Satellite Office serves residents of the Little Earth of United Tribes, a 212-unit HUD-subsidized housing complex, and the local surrounding community. DAP’s advocacy services are often requested on a walk-in basis and through community referrals.

Make a donation to our Give to the Max Day Campaign to support clients like Jessica, now through November 15th, 2018!

Jackson Gets the Healing Care He Deserves

This past year, DAP was affected by United Way’s decision to no longer fund domestic violence programming, including children’s. Yet, this funding decision came at a time when the need for DAP’s youth services was greater than ever.

DAP expanded its Youth Program to include a Young Men’s Group and birth-3 programming because our community expressed a dire need for these services.

Did you know that kids who witness domestic abuse are at least 6 months behind developmentally? This includes being behind socially, emotionally, psychologically, physically, and/ or cognitively.

Not meeting developmental milestones is exactly why kids like Jackson are behind in school, have trouble building friendships, feel they are to blame for the fighting in their homes and are confused about their feelings.


When Jackson came to DAP, he had been a witness to domestic violence in his home for years.
One night, Jackson’s parents were fighting so much that he called 911, just like he had been taught.

Jackson’s first family drawing at DAP. He said he felt alone and confused.

Jackson didn’t understand why his parents fought so much. They were supposed to love each other. Is this what love was? He simply didn’t know.

He didn’t know why his dad was mean to his mom, why he felt so lonely, or why some of the kids at school picked on him and called him names.

Jackson’s mom also received repeated reports from school about how her son was behind. Jackson was not meeting his developmental milestones due to the years of fighting he had witnessed.

Finally, Jackson’s mom decided to call Domestic Abuse Project.

When Jackson began group therapy at DAP, he was very nervous. He thought that he had done something wrong. He simply wanted to be happy and to have friends.

The fighting Jackson witnessed growing up had impacted his social skills. It was hard for him to build relationships with his peers at school, he didn’t understand how to manage his emotions, and he was conflicted about who he was. Would he grow up to act like his parents?

These confusing thoughts led to the social isolation Jackson felt. Your commitment to DAP helps us teach hundreds of children each year that they are not to blame for the fighting they witness at home.

Jackson’s “Feelings Heart.” Red = Angry,
Gray = Confused, Black = Scared, Yellow = Happy, Blue = Sad, and Brown = Nervous/Anxious.

During one activity early in Jackson’s therapy, Jackson was instructed to create a “Feelings Heart.” He was asked to color in a heart with colors that represented his emotions – happy, angry, sad, scared, nervous/anxious, and confused.

Jackson was overwhelmed.

Jackson, like other kids who witness domestic violence, did not feel safe sharing how they truly felt. The “Feelings Heart” activity is just one that helps children discuss their feelings with a therapist, learn how to acknowledge what emotions they are feeling, and that having multiple emotions at once is normal.

It takes $125 for one child to attend one group therapy session at DAP and participate in healing and educational activities such as this. Children attend DAP’s services for free, so they depend on you to help kids like Jackson heal.

Some of the topics Jackson learned at DAP included what abuse was, anger, when parents fight, sharing personal experiences, personal body space, and protection planning, among others.

Play therapy at DAP was Jackson’s favorite. He did not have many friends in his neighborhood, but at DAP, the kids in group played with him, and together they would play and process their emotions.

Play therapy is key for children to act out scenarios that may have occurred at home and process them. Your support allows DAP to continue to offer children healing therapeutic activities such as this.

As Jackson came near the end of his Youth Group at DAP, a bigger smile began to emerge on his face. He learned that he could make friends, say how he was feeling, and most importantly that the fighting in his family was not his fault and that he was not alone.

Healing is a life-long journey, but upon his graduation from DAP’s Youth Group, Jackson, for the first time in a long time, felt happy.

Your Call to Action

This story is just one example of the impact your gift can have in the life of a child in our community. Your support has the chance to change an entire child’s life struggling with domestic abuse.

Each child we help heal takes us one step closer to breaking the inter-generational cycle of violence.


Please consider supporting DAP’s little clients like Jackson with a donation today! You can simply click here.


Statement Regarding Las Vegas, NV

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is upon us. In light of recent events, it is a good time to remind our community of our responsibility to take action.

Domestic Abuse Project is committed to ending violence in all its forms. We call upon our community to come together to speak out against violence but more importantly take action. Silence is complicity in advancing violence in our communities.

We are at a loss for words by the abhorrent act of domestic terrorism and extreme violence committed in Las Vegas; however, we are not at a loss for desire and need for action by everyone in this community. It is our responsibility to take action. To change policy. And to compel our lawmakers to represent us. The second amendment was written at a time in our country’s history when it made sense to support the right to bear arms. In 2017, it is not acceptable that the screening for purchasing a gun is not very stringent. It is not acceptable that we have private citizens that possess automatic weapons.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. As a such, DAP takes a strong stance about limiting the access and purchase of guns.

The experience of witnessing violence has detrimental affects on all of us. This has a taxing emotional, psychological, physical impact and a need for more mental health resources for healing to occur. Safety is the responsibility of all of us. We must work together to prevent acts like these from happening again. Violence begets more violence. Help us break the cycle.

We stand with the victims and survivors of this tragic act of domestic terrorism.


Statement Regarding the Protest in Charlottesville, VA

Domestic Abuse Project is committed to ending violence in all its forms. Violence is an epidemic that has long-lasting emotional, psychological, and physical impact. Our mission is to build communities free from violence by providing holistic healing for every member of the family.

The events that took place in Charlottesville over the past week have left us heartbroken and saddened. The white supremacist rally held Saturday, and the subsequent violence that transpired, is a reminder that DAP’s work is more urgent and critical than ever before.

We, at DAP, recognize the intersections of our work across different communities and identities. As a feminist and social justice agency, we are called upon to do our part to eradicate all forms of oppression and violence against vulnerable communities.  In addition, we work by a strong ethical code guided by professional standards that are counter to the racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny that are not new to the fabric of this country and that have enabled elevated violent acts in the past several months.

The National Association of Social Workers-MN issued a statement that has reminded us of the blatant acts of violence against African Americans in the South and across the country. As Minnesotans, we cannot be negligent in our responsibility to stand up for what is right and further, examine and dismantle the deep-seeded institutionalization of systems of oppression that continues to cause harm in our own community.  The rally in Charlottesville is a replication of the historical trauma that is embedded in our nation’s rhetoric and urges all of us to a call to action.

Our collective growth is dependent on our collective voices.  Our values are being tested and we look to you to join us in becoming a voice against the hatred and violence purported by the protesters in Charlottesville.  We need you. This work is hard and it is messy, but now more than ever we are called to speak out against injustice.

We know that violence begets more violence. At DAP, we have built our work around the belief that violence is a learned behavior and if it is a learned behavior, we all have the capacity to learn new, healthy behaviors. As a result, we continue to help families and communities heal from trauma.

For the communities of color, the indigenous, the marginalized—we see you, we hear you, we stand with you.

Our hearts go out to the family of Heather Heyer, those injured, and the greater community.


Theresa Finds Her Voice

Theresa had been feeling more free and healed with each passing day from the time she and Bill had separated. Even though she knew the divorce was not going to be easy, she didn’t think it was going to be as much of a stressor as it was.

After having just one conversation about divorce and the children, Bill ended the conversation by slapping Theresa and threatening her for even thinking about taking the kids away from him. The information and support from the other women and therapist in her Women’s Group gave her the strength and restoration to know that Bill had gone too far and that she did not deserve this. She found the courage to call the police on Bill that afternoon. She began to wonder if she would ever really be able to escape him.

The morning after Theresa called the police and filled out a Domestic Abuse Supplement, she received a call. The voice on the other end, Jackie, explained that she was calling from Domestic Abuse Project’s 24 Hour Hotline. Jackie asked Theresa if she felt safe. The question stumped her, because though she knew she was safe at the moment, she still felt a small pit in her stomach, it was fear; she didn’t feel safe. Over the phone, Jackie led Theresa through what she should expect to happen in the next couple of days and who would be contacting her.
There was something about knowing that there was someone out there that was on her side, and it brought her comfort.
Sure enough, the next day she was contacted by an advocate from DAP, asking her if she had any questions, concerns, and that stomach turning question: if she felt safe. As the voice on the other end continued to talk and explain things to her, she felt more and more comfort and safety. She now knew she wasn’t alone in this process and that made all the difference in the world to her.
A couple days later, Theresa’s stomach was in knots just thinking about going to Bill’s arraignment hearing. She was not sure if she could bear to see him. Thankfully, there is always a DAP advocate at court every morning and afternoon!
Advocates can, not only, be the eyes and ears for a victim/survivor who may not be comfortable or able to make it to court on that date, but can also be there to offer support for the victims that do come to court and need assistance or want to utilize DAP’s resources. Also, victims/survivors utilize DAP’s support in filing an Order for Protection (OFP). The more the advocate explained the criminal process to Theresa and walked her through filling out the document, the more her comfort increased that this would be a good option for her.
Before Theresa knew it, the time of the arraignment had arrived and she found herself overwhelmed again. But the feeling was fleeting because the advocate that was going to court that day had called her that morning to tell her that if she didn’t want to go to court, the advocate would be there and could call her after to let her know what had happened. It was like a weight had been lifted.

She felt safe knowing that there was a voice out their fighting on her behalf, but more than that she soon began to realize that DAP’s Advocates had been helping to strengthen her own voice as well.

Please consider supporting clients like Theresa and her family with a donation today. 


Donor Spotlight: Anna, Ella, & Mackenna

Domestic Abuse Project was recently gifted with a donation from a few unexpected donors: three girls on vacation in Higgins Beach, Maine. A pair of twins who just recently turned 12, Anna and Ella, along with their friend Makenna, held a lemonade stand for the neighborhood with surprising success.

These young entrepreneurs made $60 in just a few hours. They decided to keep $10 individually to reward their hard work, but they also wanted to do something worthwhile with the rest of the money. The girls did not know much about where to donate the money, however they did know that they wanted to help children and their families.

Lori and Mark, long time DAP donors, had been visiting the girls’ family this past July and were surprised by the girls that they would get to help them decide where the remainder of the girls’ money was donated. Lori and Mark explained to the girls how DAP helps children who are hurt and helps their families recover. The three girls agreed with Lori and Mark to donate the remainder of their money to the Domestic Abuse Project! Even though DAP is located in the Twin Cities (1,500 miles away from Higgins Beach, Maine), the girls wanted to make sure that these children in need received the help they deserved.

The $30 they donated went towards helping the Youth Therapy Program at DAP, which helps over 100 children heal annually. This is the second year in a row that the girls have held a lemonade stand and donated the money to a charity. These young girls demonstrate that it does not matter who or where you are – if you want to help others, you can.


Donor Spotlight: Nick & Shelly

This July will mark the two year anniversary since Natalie was tragically killed as a result of domestic violence.

From right: Nick, Shelly, Natalie and family.

It is because of Natalie’s death that Nick, Natalie’s brother, and Shelly, Natalie’s sister-in-law, wanted to get involved in spreading the word about domestic violence and were connected to Domestic Abuse Project through a close friend. Just three months after Natalie’s death, they attended DAP’s Transforming Families Annual Luncheon where former clients share their stories of domestic abuse and their experience at DAP. After attending the luncheon, Nick and Shelly knew that DAP was an agency that they wanted to continue partnering with.

After uncovering all the details of Natalie’s death and learning more about the cycle of domestic abuse, Nick and Shelly were shocked to learn how widespread domestic abuse is and how it can truly affect anyone, as they had seen so firsthand. So they created Bags & Beers for Nat: Love Conquers Violence, a memorial benefit in honor of Natalie. The goal of the benefit is to honor Natalie, as well as to break the silence about domestic abuse in the hopes of preventing it in our communities. “We wanted to create an event that we knew Natalie would be the first person to sign up for. She was a jeans, t-shirt and beer kind of person; so we know she is looking over us and smiling. To see so many people gather together to honor Natalie is so amazing,” Shelly says.

This year the event will be held on Saturday, August 5th from 2:00pm-6:00pm. For the second year in a row, the event will feature a bags/cornhole tournament, multiple raffles, a silent auction, as well as a wine toss. In addition, all the proceeds from the event will be split between the Natalie Beissel Scholarship Fund at ATSU, where Natalie was attending medical school, and the Domestic Abuse Project!

“We chose DAP as our charitable partner because we believe in DAP’s mission in providing healing for every member of the family. Their focus is not only on the survivor of domestic abuse, but also on the person who used abuse. We, like DAP, believe that in order to truly break the cycle, you need to look at everyone involved. We hope you’ll be able to join us for this incredible event!” –Nick & Shelly 

To register and for more information about the event visit www.loveconquersviolence.com or find the event on Facebook: Love Conquers Violence.


Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Thomas didn’t want to go to Domestic Abuse Project. He was nothing like his dad, and he didn’t understand why his mom, Theresa, was making him go to meet with a therapist there. It’s not like he was doing the same things to his girlfriend, Sophia, that his dad had done to his mom.

Of course he did not want to hurt Sophia, but Thomas had never been in a relationship before and he didn’t know how to handle difficulties between them. He loved her but he was always concerned with who she was talking to or texting. Jealousy led to arguments between the two of them, and without any experience in relationships, Thomas’s reaction escalated to being similar to his father’s outbursts.

The last thing Thomas wanted to be was his father. Thomas resented him for the way he had treated his mother, however he still felt the effects of his father’s actions. Thomas regretted everything that had happened; however, he did not know what he would do differently.  His mom shared with him what she had witnessed and how she wanted him to have the tools to express himself differently.  Following a long conversation with his mom, Thomas accepted to attend the Young Men’s Program at DAP. 

The woman who led the group started by thanking them for coming, because while some of them were court ordered, that was not the case for Thomas. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat while the therapist asked what abuse consisted of. Once the cycle of abuse had been drawn out, the therapist explained what would be covered over the next 12 weeks. This was when Thomas actually paid attention: they would learn how to handle stressful situations and what made up an appropriate response. This was the moment that made him realize that the group would not just be some lecture once a week punishing him for what he had done but that there was a solution to his toughest problem.

It’s called a stop plan. The general purpose is to establish the “why” for abuse on an individual basis. It has two components: a cue rating and the time-out plan.

A cue rating is a list of personal cues that are individual to each young man, such as situations that trigger them, the negative thoughts that run through their mind, and their physical reactions in their bodies to how they feel. Identifying these cues and ranking them from low to high escalation can increase insight and help young men know when to take a break.

A time-out plan anticipates a future outburst based on the individually designed cue plan, and what will be done to make sure that it doesn’t lead to another abusive incident. For Thomas, his biggest cue is when his girlfriend disregards what he says with a laugh. He decided he would go to the gym or for a run if an argument escalates to a point where he knows that if it goes any further he may lose control.

This was a first step in overcoming his abuse and a plan to work towards. He knew that he could be different than his father and that gave him hope.


Over the course of the twelve weeks, there were many different topics that were covered including communication, gender roles, emotions, responsibility, and more.  These were all aspects that could be controlled by Thomas; violence was not the only option. One overarching theme that stuck with Thomas was that there was still time to change. The purpose of this group was defined as one step in stopping the inter-generational cycle of abuse and this was what Thomas wanted.  He had been viewing himself as his father since he began mistreating Sophia, and that caused many different emotions that he couldn’t pinpoint.  Before he entered therapy, Thomas would disregard these emotions and just go with what was instinctual: anger.

A discussion about emotions took place one day, and the therapist brought up the difference between shame and guilt.  Thomas had never differentiated the two emotions, and it took weeks of processing to understand that there was an actual difference.  Shame is a painful feeling of having done something wrong that ultimately affects how you view yourself, whereas guilt is a feeling of responsibility for what was done.  This made something click within Thomas. He recognized what he had been doing to Sophia was wrong, and he felt a responsibility for it.

Thomas had learned that abuse went beyond physically hurting his girlfriend. His emotions would get the best of him and he would verbally hurt her as well as guilt her into believing it was her fault that he was angry. This was something that Thomas had seen his father do throughout his life, and he did not want to continue it.

The sessions did begin to bring clarity into Thomas’s life. For an hour and a half each week, he would go in to discuss how he understood himself, and how the other young men interpreted abusive behavior. He learned that his actions were his fault; however, where it stemmed from was not. He interpreted this lesson as a way to improve his future because although he could not control his past, he could control his present actions. Thomas did not view himself as cured and he wasn’t entirely sure if he had even learned anything to change his behavior at this point.

One aspect of this group that Thomas appreciated was the focus on each of the boys who attended. So while the lessons were given to the entire group, each individual was helped in their own way by the therapist and the fellow boys. The therapist that led the group did not pass judgment as Thomas previously expected, and instead allowed them to be the experts of their lives. The therapist wanted to know what caused them to act the way they did, and respond individually. The other boys helped Thomas articulate his thoughts, and they also responded to what he was feeling. There was a mutual sense of pride in each other between the boys.

Attending group for Thomas was still just a task that had to be completed, even during the last week. Thomas looked forward to seeing the other boys and the therapist, because it was a private place with open-minded people, but it drained him. The subject of abuse was not one that he wanted to discuss, especially this often.  However, the last day came with a sense of loss for Thomas because as much as he did not want to consistently go through his bad behavior, he felt comfortable with the group. There was never anything like this in his life before and he did not know where or when he would have the chance to experience it again. While walking out for the last time, Thomas hoped that he had learned something.

Months went past after finishing the program when Thomas finally realized how significant the therapy was on his life. Without being aware of it, he had implemented his stop plan when he would become upset.  He did not acknowledge it at the time because he was more focused on the situation at hand, but he thought about it as a moment of becoming the man that he wanted to be when he reflected on it.  He did not get angry enough for tunnel vision to take over, and reacted before it escalated too far. Thomas later talked to his therapist on the phone and thanked her, because he knew what would have happened had he not learned how to handle a situation like this from DAP. Thomas made a conscious effort to be in control of his reactions because of the group therapy he attended, and this changed his course from using abuse in his relationships like his father.

Please consider supporting clients like Thomas with a donation today. 

Theresa’s Journey

Theresa sat quietly on the Number 2 headed to Domestic Abuse Project (DAP)—her first day as part of DAP’s Women’s Group and she felt extremely anxious. Following her intake, Theresa worked with the therapist on personal goals; being able to identify signs of a partner who may use abuse and to understand what consisted of a healthy relationship.

Theresa was headed to DAP with two of her daughters at her side because she was seeking change, support and the tools needed to heal from abuse. A lot was on her mind that morning because the night before was especially difficult, hearing from her room her 16 year old son arguing with his girlfriend. Abuse was a part of all of the lives in her home and she felt guilty and ashamed.

Bill, Theresa’s partner, would use all kinds of abuse to harm her and her kids; in addition to the hitting and other physical violence, he would yell and scream. He would keep Theresa from seeing her parents or friends. All of this manifested into an isolation that she could not escape regardless of what she tried.

She did not make a noise over the course of the first Women’s Group; with her arms crossed, Theresa just listened—not wanting to talk, it was too hard. Memories associated with the yelling and pushing that happened to these women flooded her mind with guilt and shame; however Theresa recognized a part of her in those stories. They were different yet somehow the same.

After being in the group for a few more weeks, a question was posed about what an example of a red flag for domestic violence is. Theresa answered with one that happened in her home time and time again. The therapist thanked her before moving on. A weight had been lifted and suddenly self-confidence flowed through her veins. Despite the uniqueness to everyone’s story, there was the same foundation to each of them: their past did not define who they are now.

Often times individuals who use abuse take choice away to control their partners. DAP continually works with these survivors to regain choice, control and power in their lives.

After more sessions and a clear increase in confidence, the therapist approached Theresa and asked if she would be willing to share her story or what the therapist called a significant incident. Theresa accepted with hesitation because she knew it was required, however the guilt of being a failure overtook her again after she had been slowly peeling away at it. Another step on the pathway to healing.

[CONTINUED FROM THE NEWSLETTER; Story contains descriptions of violence.]

Theresa had seen most of the women in the group present their significant incident, so she had a general idea of what she would talk about.  She would give her story during the second half of therapy, and then other women would respond to her story.  The first half consisted of learning about domestic abuse and how the healing process worked.  She decided on one moment that she felt defined the abuse she had undergone, and to Theresa’s relief, the therapist helped her through the process of how she would present it.  After a week of practice and coming into DAP an extra time to ensure her preparedness, the time came for Theresa to share a significant incident.  The nervousness of sharing what happened stemmed from shame.  She told the story with a tremble in her voice, but persisted with the hope it would bring a feeling of vindication.


“I came home from work just before dinner time, which was typical.  I planned on making roast beef for         dinner, which was again typical.  I had told my ex the day before that I was done with him and his attitude about how I ran the household.  He told me off and proceeded to cancel my credit card, which belonged to an account we shared.  This was not the first time he had done this, so I figured he would activate it again within a few days.  I had cash and did not need it, however it bothered me of course.   

This time was different.  I heard him come in and I could hear the anger in his steps.  His job is at a warehouse and it’s chaotic, already putting him on edge.  He didn’t even look at me when he walked into the kitchen. 

‘What’s for dinner.’ He stated.  ‘Roast beef’ I replied.  His shoulders rose with his breathing, and his eyes closed. 



As he left, the tension in the room dropped significantly with his exit.  I was finishing the dinner when the children came into the kitchen, bickering over what to watch on TV that night.  That’s when he came back in and the children tensed up, stopping the argument in its tracks. 

He did not even look at the children when he told me I was why they would never make anything of themselves.  He proceeded to make them go pack their belongings, because they would be leaving with him that night.

It was unexpected. 

I didn’t even know that he was at the point of leaving.  We argue often and he’s always threatened to leave, but never so abruptly.

I wanted to cry out – shout, hit him, grab my babies and run away.  But I couldn’t move.  I felt my throat tighten and all I could say was, ‘Don’t.’ 

He turned to me with a look of disgust.  I didn’t know what to do so I repeated myself.  All he said was that I was a failure of a mother. 

‘Get out.’ I said with false confidence.  I stared into his eyes while I repeated it over and over, getting louder and louder.  Before he left he blankly said, ‘I’ll be back for them.  They need me more than you.’

I wasn’t physically touched that day, but this time was worse than ever before, and the final straw.


The other women looked at Theresa with pride as she ended, and a sense of community overtook the room.  The negative emotions that overpowered Theresa’s life had been a prison cell, and for the first time she felt a sense of comfort.  She had broken out of the isolation that had run her life for far too long.  The event that pushed her to go to DAP had been validated, and a new identity could be formed.  Theresa looked forward to the next week when she would follow-up with the group about discussing her significant incident.  She felt the relief that she had hoped for while she prepared.

Theresa’s story ended with her briefly mentioning that her son had begun to show signs of learned behavior from his father, and a fear of her daughters becoming affected in the same way as herself.  This caught the attention of the therapist sitting in, and she approached Theresa with a pamphlet explaining the Young Men’s Group, the Youth Program, and even DAP’s birth to five therapy.  Theresa’s whole family could receive the support they deserved.

Please consider supporting clients like Theresa with a donation today. 

Domestic Abuse Project’s Statement on the Yanez Verdict

DAP’s mission is to build communities free from violence by providing holistic healing for every member of the family. As such, we issue this statement on the Yanez verdict.
As the courts have completed the trial to seek justice for the family of Philando Castile, we at DAP are deeply saddened by his tragic death and acknowledge the deep pain and suffering his family and community are experiencing as a result of the verdict. We remember him as an important member of the community who shared his joy and happiness with children at school every day and we share the sadness and anguish of his family. We recognize the deep trauma that his family, the school community where he worked, and his community at large have and are experiencing as a result of this incident.
We acknowledge that the healing that is needed is a long, complex journey. We urge the mental health community to stand with us to continue to raise awareness of the long-term impact of experiencing and witnessing violence on families and the necessity of healing conversations and spaces for all.
As a social justice and feminist agency, DAP is committed to dismantling systems of oppression, fear, and misunderstanding. We believe that we have a role to play in reforming the criminal justice system in the pursuit of justice for all and to create a safe community for everyone. Violence is not just a public safety issue, it’s a public health epidemic.
Our hearts go out to the Castile family, the children at JJ Hill Montessori, and to members of our greater community.

Domestic violence victims experiencing increased fear of reporting abuse due to immigration policies

Reporting instances of domestic violence can be a scary and intimidating experience for victims. Members of law enforcement and other agencies continue to work to ensure victims’ safety and well-being in a variety of ways, such as the use of danger assessments, and trauma-informed skills. Even with the expansion of victim-centered work, survivors of domestic and sexual violence are still apprehensive of reporting these crimes. There are many reasons that victim-survivors may be apprehensive or scared to report abuse; a victim may fear that no one will believe them, they may have had traumatic experiences in the past involving law enforcement, or they may simply not want to get the system (e.g. Child Protective Services) involved in what they see as a personal issue. These reasons and many more then give many victims little choice but to stay with their abuser.

Unfortunately, at this political time in U.S. history, the apprehension for victim/survivors to report domestic and sexual violence crimes may become even more prevalent, as a result of President Donald Trump’s January 25 and January 27, 2017 Executive Actions. Through my attendance at the “No Wall No Ban” Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Minneapolis City Council meeting on February 7, 2017 at City Hall and information from a report by the Tahirih Justice Center, under this Executive Order, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would expand by creating thousands of jobs for new ICE and border patrol agents, local law enforcement would be ordered to carry out tasks conducted by immigration, and under Section 5 (a), (b), and (c), the government would prioritize the deportation of those who have committed any kind of criminal offense, including domestic and sexual violence victims (Tahirih Justice Center, 2017).

Even before this Executive Order was proposed, I helped a victim of abuse write an Order for Protection against her abuser. This was already a struggle for the victim to seek protection as their abuser was the family’s main financial provider for the victim and their children. Upon being served with the Order for Protection, the abuser as well as the victim’s other family members were investigated by ICE and set to be deported.

Given this proposed Executive Order, there is a greater fear that law enforcement could deport a victim/survivor of domestic and sexual violence and their family members on a 911 domestic violence call. There is a very real reason to believe that victim/survivors impacted by immigration status may not come forward to report these crimes or seek legal help to ensure their safety. Our clients are already sharing these concerns with us. And, this fear has already come to fruition. In El Paso, Texas following Trump’s Executive Order, a woman was arrested and detained by ICE at the courthouse following a hearing for her request for relief through an Order for Protection against her abusive partner. This sets a dangerous precedent and turns many victims fears into a dangerous reality.

Because this is now the reality, it is time to start having these transparent conversations with the individuals that we serve and with the domestic and sexual violence organizations that we work with. It is pertinent that we begin safety planning with victim/survivors and on behalf of victim/survivors, while keeping the impact of this Executive Order in mind. Domestic and sexual violence advocates have worked hard throughout history to create a social and political atmosphere that makes it safe for victim/survivors to come forward and feel support. We can’t let politics undermine this work. It is time to speak out for those that are unable to do so, and challenge the horrific social injustices that force victim/survivors back into the shadows of abuse.

Siri Lokensgard, Advocacy Program Supervisor

2016 By The Numbers

Check out what we’ve been up to here at DAP this past year! Thanks to your generous support we were able to transform and heal countless lives.

Click the link above for a snapshot of what we were able to accomplish in 2016.

Volunteer Spotlight: Monica

Monica is currently a student at the University of Minnesota majoring in Family Social Science, with a minor in Family Violence and Prevention. Monica began working with the 24 Hour Hotline as a service learning project in the spring of 2016. She had since extended her volunteer position with the 24 Hour Hotline, and she volunteers as a First Call Operator.
“I have enjoyed volunteering for the 24 hour hotline because it provides me with the opportunity to be one of the first responses after a domestic violence police report. I believe that getting in contact with victims quickly after a domestic violence incident has occurred reassures them that their feelings are valid, their call for help was heard, and there are people and services that can and want to help them. Volunteering for the 24-hour hotline is exciting and rewarding and has provided me with many great experiences that will benefit my future in social work.”

“It truly impresses me as Monica makes every attempt to positively impact each individual she engages with, helping to drive DAP’s mission in ending domestic violence in our community.”- 24 Hour Hotline Supervisor, Pakou.


Healing With Culture, Healing With Community

When Ashley opened her door to see a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer in uniform she felt her shoulders tense up, initially not noticing DAP advocate Rhonda standing opposite him. After Ashley glanced at Rhonda longer, she remembered seeing

Rhonda in the community previously, and immediately breathed easier. Rhonda and the MPD officer arrived at Ashley’s home simply in the hopes of offering her family more resources regarding domestic violence. A day earlier a domestic 911 call had been made from Ashley’s home and as part of the South Minneapolis Hot Spots program, Rhonda and the MPD officer were standing at Ashley’s door. Because of this simple follow-up, Rhonda was able to inform Ashley of the domestic violence resources in her community and assist her in writing an Order for Protection against her ex-husband.

While most people only have one office, DAP advocate Rhonda has two. Or three, if you count a police officer’s car! That’s because Rhonda splits her week between DAP headquarters, the Little Earth Community in South Minneapolis, and Hot Spots home visits.

The Little Earth Community is a low income housing development in South Minneapolis that gives preference to Native people. Little Earth provides affordable housing, in addition to resources and programs for its residents. Rhonda, a Native American woman who grew up in South Minneapolis, has spent the past several months meeting with community leaders and residents, in order to build a relationship with the Little Earth community and become a trusted resource.

Little Earth is a tight knit community, and many of the residents have lived there for a long time. This can make it difficult for people to feel comfortable coming forward about abuse for fear of gossip, or judgement. That’s why it is so important to Rhonda that she’s able to be there, as in Ashley’s case, to act as a mediator for the community’s people. “I think people like seeing a familiar face, they know I’m someone they can trust and come to with their concerns, and they also know that my office is a safe space for them to talk without fear of judgement.”

And now, Rhonda is expanding the Hot Spots program to Little Earth. With an officer she visits homes where 911 calls have been made but no police report has been filed, as in Ashley’s case. “The police haven’t always been welcome at Little Earth due to past conflict, and I hope that through the Hot Spots program I can act as a bridge between the Little Earth community and the MPD.”

Advocates Care for Victim/Survivors, and their Culture

Advocates, Sandra and Pakou, respond to victim/survivors with culturally responsive care.

Advocates, Sandra and Pakou, respond to victim/survivors with culturally responsive care.

Domestic abuse does not discriminate based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or class. Yet, cultural backgrounds, as well as potential language barriers, can have a huge impact on the way survivors navigate both the issue of domestic violence, and finding help.  As we continue to deepen our services, we’ve been working hard to keep in mind the unique cultural experiences and backgrounds of our clients. We are lucky enough to have staff at DAP who are able to provide culturally specific services to many members of our community. Two advocates, Pakou, who is Hmong, and Sandra, who is Latina (both are bilingual), told us their experiences of working with victim/surivivors who share their identity.

Pakou has found that cultural beliefs within the Hmong community has made it less likely for victims to reach out, and when they do, more likely to minimize their issues. This is mainly due to cultural norms of privacy and dealing with family issues within the family. She has found that when Hmong women do reach out to her, their shared cultural background has helped her relate to their circumstances.

She shared a story of a woman who called her in crisis wondering if she should leave her abusive partner. She was facing pressure from her family to leave him and wasn’t sure what to do. Because Pakou understood the underlying cultural issues that were in play in this specific situation she was able to help the client much more effectively, and compassionately. “She didn’t have to explain everything from the beginning, I knew why her family had reacted the way they did and what that meant. We were able to dive right in to her feelings about the situation and I think that was very helpful.”

Sandra has found that when members of the Latin American community reach out for services, they often rely on her for many different things. She finds that she spends more time on these cases because she often has to act as interpreter, or simply explain to her clients how the court system works. She is able to help her Spanish speaking clients navigate the, often confusing, court system. And she finds herself connecting her clients with resources far beyond the scope of domestic violence, such as immigration resources. She loves that she is able to effectively serve her Spanish speaking clients in all their needs. “It’s been really rewarding to help people navigate the system and I hope we can continue to hire people that are representative of the diverse community that makes up Minneapolis.”

Recognizing the complexity of our clients’ lived experience, for our new strategic plan (2017-2020) DAP has prioritized improving our ability to provide culturally responsive services, as well as ensuring our work is anti-racist and anti-oppressive. We are committed to expanding and deepening our ability to provide compassionate, culturally responsive care, just like Sandra and Pakou do every day.

Learn more about our new strategic plan, and how you can get involved in our growth. Click here to RSVP for our Strategic Plan Launch Event, February 23 , 4:30-6:30 at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.

Purple Flowers With Paige Dansinger

DAP partnered with Artist and Director, Paige Dansinger, for a Place-Making Public Art Project. This 5to10 on Hennepin grant was funded by the Hennepin Theatre Truspurple-flowert, Partners in Public Spaces, and Southwest Airline’s Heart of the Community Program. 10% of works by Paige Dansinger, Founding Director at Better World Museum, (Formerly Mpls. Center for Digital Art), benefits DAP! Click on the flower below to donate or learn more about the Purple Flowers with DAP!

Stories of Healing and Hope: Jared’s Transformation

Today, I have two beautiful daughters and a wonderful partner. I have the healthy family I always wanted. Because of DAP, I learned to practice being a loving and compassionate person every day by being in control of my actions. I want to be an example to my daughters of how they should be treated.

Today, I have two beautiful daughters and a wonderful partner. I have the healthy family I always wanted. Because of DAP, I learned to practice being a loving and compassionate person every day by being in control of my actions. I want to be an example to my daughters of how they should be treated.

Seven years ago, I was arrested for hitting my girlfriend. Before that, I had used abuse in other ways – I’d yell at her and scare her. When I got arrested I was released from jail under the condition that I successfully complete the men’s program at Domestic Abuse Project.

When I started going to DAP I was still angry at the world. I thought life was treating me badly, and that it wasn’t fair.

So my view of DAP at first wasn’t a good one. I just wanted to finish the program and get it over with. I honestly thought I didn’t need any help.

After going to a few classes we watched this one video – it really stuck with me. It was about how your upbringing and life experiences help make you the person you are today. The video talked about how men who use abuse were often victims as a kid. It didn’t say this made abuse okay, it just helped explain how someone might learn that being hurtful to your girlfriend is normal, even when it isn’t.

Watching that video – I had a moment of clarity. I said to myself, “You’ve got to give this an honest shot.”

I was the youngest in my group at the time and seeing the example of the other men, and how they needed help too, and were taking responsibility – it was eye opening. It really helped motivate me to change too.

At one point I remember going home crying because I knew I needed to make a drastic change. And I knew this change had to start with me, and it had to start in my home.

I no longer wanted to go to jail or be feared. Having street cred didn’t matter. I didn’t want to think I was above anyone else. I didn’t want to have a girlfriend leave me anymore because she said she’s scared of me and what I could do to her.

Instead, I wanted to start a family and stay on a new, clear path.

So, during the men’s program I learned so much! I felt like a new man with new tools to help break the cycle of violence that had become such a big part of my life.

Now I know how to take a time-out when I’m starting to feel angry and out of control. I learned to express my feelings and that it is okay to cry and show vulnerability. I learned to really love and show compassion. I was horrible at this at first. It’s all so much easier said than done, especially with the stigma that men always have to be tough. But DAP taught me how to keep trying and to really change.

Today, I’m open with myself and my loved ones. I stopped drinking. I no longer raise a fist or throw things. I take the time to clear my head if I’m angry or hurt. I talk about my feelings.

In the end, I’m one of the stories that shine. I now have two beautiful daughters and a loving partner by my side every step of the way. I’m grateful to all those who support DAP. Because of them I’m able to stop the hate and the violence.  My whole life is better!

Domestic Abuse Project’s statement on the recent election

During the last two years we have lived through an increasingly contentious election cycle, leaving many communities feeling at risk and unsafe. The anxiety and distress felt by women, LGBTQ individuals, communities of color, and immigrants and refugees did not end on November 9, in fact, it only increased. Each day our clients and staff share their lived reality with us – for many this is a reality fundamentally based in fear and injustice.
Domestic Abuse Project remains committed to the work of social justice. We will continue to be a sanctuary for families experiencing domestic abuse, helping them build safety and stabilization in their lives. As a feminist agency we will do this work with a full understanding of and attention to the intersecting identities and oppressions faced by each client who walks through our doors. Finally, we will work to end gender based violence, and counter misogyny in our local and national dialogue, with great fervour.

Christina Finds Life-saving Legal Support at DAP

October 4, 2016

Christina lived in constant fear. She feared she would never be fully safe from her abuser. Christina’s husband, Dan, had been abusing Christina and her kids emotionally and psychologically for years. Dan would call

Christina names in front of their kids and threaten her. She’d been contemplating a divorce for months, but she didn’t think she had had enough financial stability on her own to follow through.  

But one day, Christina decided to call the police when her husband threatened to physically abuse her. Things were escalating, Dan had never threatened her with physical violence before. Enough was enough. 

A few months later, Christina, and her kids found themselves at DAP. With DAP’s help, Christina completed the Women’s Program and her children began to heal from the abuse they witnessed in the Children’s Group. Although things were getting more steady in her life, Christina wanted to divorce her husband – and she had lots of questions about sharing custody with Dan, and didn’t have a lot of money to consult with a lawyer. After sharing her concerns to her therapist at DAP, she advised that Christina go to DAP’s free legal clinic  

When Christina arrived at DAP for the free legal clinic she met with Jessica Wassenberg, an attorney in family law that offers the legal clinic at DAP pro bono once a month for 3 hours. Wassenberg has practiced family law for over 10 years and has donated over 1,000 hours in pro bono work helping the underrepresented in Minnesota.  Wassenberg handles mostly divorce, child custody cases, and orders for protection.  After Christina described her situation and concerns to the attorney, Mrs. Wassenberg suggested that Christina file for Parenting Time Assistance during her divorce. Parenting Time Assistance would allow for her husband to have set days and times where he could see his children, thereby relieving Christina’s worry of Dan coming over unexpectedly.  

With the help of Wassenberg, Christina was able to file for Parenting Time Assistance and stop the constant stress she felt from the fear of her husband showing up randomly. “Having Mrs. Wassenberg as a resource at Domestic Abuse Project helped save my family the extra grief of having to confront my abuser unexpectedly. Without this aid, filing for Parenting Time Assistance might have been too difficult to do alone.”  

Katie, a Women’s Program case worker, says “Advocacy provides short term safety plans for victims of domestic violence. Law can provide a long term solution.” She continues, “The legal system can be very difficult for those without proper representation. Add complicated situations such as domestic violence into the mix and it becomes even more complex.” 

For clients like Christina at DAP, the free legal clinic offers an immense amount of support, without putting added stress on their finances. It has been over a year since Christina completed the Women’s Program at DAP and filed for Parental Time Assistance. Since then, she has been able to move on from the financial stresses of her divorce as well as the mental stress she felt from her ex-husband.

DAP hosts Humphrey Fellow from Pakistan

This week Domestic Abuse Project had the unique privilege of hosting a Humphrey fellow. Neelum Khan Toru is a member of a Humphrey Fellowship pilot program that focuses on executive leadership. This program brought together ten different leaders from all over the world for a week of Seminars at Harvard, and then connected them with institutions all over the country that best matched their professional background. Khan Toru, who specializes in women’s issues in her home country of Pakistan, was connected to DAP.

Khan Toru is the chairperson of the Provincial Commission on the Status of Women, where she focuses  on creating policies centered around the safety of women. Her organization, founded in 2012, is fairly young, but has already had major successes in its effort to champion women’s rights and safety in Pakistan. They are involved in many areas of policy and have had successes in legislature regarding voting rights, and most recently have passed a resolution against honor killings. They are also active in working to pass laws regarding human trafficking within Pakistan’s borders, an area which has very little oversight at this time.

She spent the week at DAP as well as other organizations in the Metro area, observing therapy sessions, meeting with staff, and discussing policy. According to Khan Toru, places like DAP do exist in Pakistan although they are far fewer there. It is her goal to observe the way DAP and organizations like it operate, take that information back to her committee, and perhaps integrate it into policy there. She especially is interested in the security nets and insurances that we are able to provide for our clients beyond counseling, such as shelters, emergency  funds, and government assistance. According to Khan Toru no such programs exist for victims of domestic violence in her home country.

Here at DAP we are also learning many valuable lessons from her. She met with staff and gave her insights on the cultural and societal factors that play into domestic violence in Pakistan, as well as her thoughts on the universality of domestic violence and the way in affects people. From her observations of group and individual therapy sessions, as well as her conversations with her Humphrey colleagues she concluded: “the issues are the same globally.” While they may appear different on the surface, she explained, the underlying attitudes associated with domestic violence, as well as the emotional toll on the victims, is the same in Pakistan as it is here at home.

Marine Corps Receives Change Step Training and Helps Veterans Change Abusive Behavior

change step logo purpleIn July two therapists, Sean and Mariah found themselves on the coast of sunny California. But they weren’t there to enjoy the sun and surf – they were training roughly 30 social workers of the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton in Domestic Abuse Project’s Change Step model.

Change Step was created in 2012 to provide services that address the specific issues faced by veterans of the Armed Forces who have used abuse. The group program helps veterans explore why they use abusive behavior and to make a plan for ending this in their life. Topics include the military’s traditionally masculine setting, gender roles, and mental illness.

One of the goals of the Change Step Program is to create a sense of accountability and camaraderie. “Battle buddies” are partners assigned to each other in the military that are responsible for supporting one another in and out of combat. In Change Step we talk about how each of the guys are battle buddies for one another – holding each other accountable for their actions and supporting them on their journey to end abusive behavior.

This is one of many takeaways training participants plan to incorporate into their work. At Camp Pendleton social workers already run a program for men who use abusive behaviors, but the participants said the Change Step model would help strengthen their work through tools such as the Self-Control Plan, the lesson on shame versus responsibility, and teaching accountability.

While most of the participants already had a working knowledge of domestic violence and treatment measures, the Change Step training “provided alternative ways to present information that enriched [participants’] knowledge.”

One participant said of the training, “Definitely not boring! I have been doing this a long time and you had more stuff I will use than any other program other than when I took entry-level domestic violence courses.”

As many as 81% of veterans suffering from depression and PTSD engaged in at least one violent act against their partner in a given year according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. More services are needed to intervene to end this trend.

Because of support from our donors, we were able to create an innovative model that does just that – that changes men’s behavior so they can participate in equal and healthy relationships, while supporting veterans’ underlying needs related to mental health and PTSD.

Over the years, therapists at DAP have trained programs on the Change Step model, including WestCare, two Minnesota veteran clinics, and the United States Air Force. With your support, our reach grows. We are building networks of service providers who can effectively end the use of abuse by veterans, and support them in the challenges they face in civilian life.

Meet the Interns

August 23, 2016


Trena is working toward her Masters of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. She hopes to deepen her understanding of domestic violence, trauma, and its impact on the family and the community. She believes that domestic violence is a social issue and collective society is responsible to end the perpetuation of structural violence. Trena is excited to be an intern at DAP because she values the mind and body connection in the healing process of trauma therapy.


Catherine is working toward her Masters of Social Work at St. Catherine University/St. Thomas University. Catherine decided to be an intern at DAP to further understand domestic violence and its aspects that affect the lives of those who experience it. She wishes to gain first hand experience into the educational and therapeutic process used at DAP. Ending domestic violence is important to Catherine because as a former teacher she has seen the effect that domestic abuse has on children and the learning process. She believes with education and hard work ending the viscous cycle of violence is more possible.


Jessica is working toward her Masters of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. She wanted to be an intern at DAP because she is passionate and hopeful that education and therapy can end domestic violence. Jessica wishes to gain clinical experience and sensitivity to working with individuals affected by domestic abuse. She believes domestic violence is a systemic issue and that by raising awareness and doing therapy we can hope to end it in our community.


Keegan is working toward her Masters in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. She is excited to gain new experiences and to be working with the Men’s Group. Keegan has always considered herself to be an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and wants to make change in new ways. For Keegan ending domestic violence is crucial to creating an educated community and to making a better world for those she loves.


Allison is working toward her Masters in Clinical Psychology at Argosy University. She came to DAP to work with other passionate and dedicated people to end domestic violence. Allison will gaining practical experience in working of the field of domestic violence is crucial. She wishes to be able to create a safe and supportive environment for those around her. For Allison making a difference in even one family, she will be happy to have helped create positive change.


Christine is working toward her Masters of Social Work at St. Catherine University/St. Thomas University. She is an intern at DAP because she wanted to be involved with an organization that takes action against domestic violence in the community so actively. Christine is hoping to become more educated about domestic abuse so that she can educate others professionally and in her personal life. Ending domestic abuse is important to Christine because seeing the detrimental impacts it has on individuals and society makes her want to help others develop a healthy life.


Terra is working toward her Masters in Social Work at St. Catherine University/St. Thomas University. She is grateful for the opportunity to work at an agency that serves the family as a whole. She regards this internship as something that can help her gain deeper knowledge into the field of domestic abuse. For Terra ending domestic abuse is important because of its severe impacts on children. By working with DAP Terra hopes to create a future where domestic violence no longer exists.


Kelsey is working toward her Clinical Mental Health Counseling Masters. For Kelsey, working at DAP is an opportunity for her to help end silence about violence and raise awareness of domestic abuse. She hopes to gain the knowledge necessary to working in mental health services. Kelsey is working to end domestic abuse because she sees the impact it has on individuals and their relationships. She wishes to be a resource to those who seek support.


Sean is working toward his Masters in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. For Sean, interning with DAP is an opportunity to learn from the many therapists about how to help families and communities be as strong as they can be. He wishes to gain experience in offering therapy services to youth. Sean believes that by healing individuals, families can live and love and project their health out to their friends, coworkers, and community.


Sam is working towards his Masters in Social Work at Augsburg College. Sam sees working at DAP as an experience that will have him working with different clients to help heal for past and present trauma, while helping to end abuse. Sam also sees it as an opportunity to gain another perspective of abuse as he works with a variety of different clients. Sam has a strong belief that treatment is important because without it the abuse cycle will continue on to future generations.


Peter is currently working towards his Masters in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. For Peter DAP is an opportunity to work with veterans, which is the group he plans on working with the most. He hopes to gain experience and knowledge to help better prepare himself for working with involuntary clients. Peter believes domestic violence is a part of a violence as a whole, and stopping domestic violence is a large part in working to create non violent solutions for problems

Help DAP Transform Families!

August 2, 2016

Join us in honoring the victims of domestic abuse and supporting those working to end it.

Attend DAP’s Annual Transforming Families Luncheon on Tuesday, October 11th, 12pm-1pm. There is an optional pre-luncheon reception at 11am.

You can RSVP here.

Please call Anna Zaros at 612-874-7063 x207 with any questions.

Be a Table Captain!

DAP is still looking for Table Captains for our luncheon fundraiser.  Table Captains invite their circle of friends, colleagues, and family to fill their table of ten.  Without captains, we can’t raise the money to serve families affected by abuse. Most guests are grateful to be invited to this meaningful event. If you are able to support DAP in this very meaningful way, please contact Anna Zaros at azaros@mndap.org or 612-874-7063 x207.

Grant Spotlight: Pohlad Family Foundation

August 2, 2016


Domestic Abuse Project is excited to announce a new grant from the Pohlad Family Foundation. The grant provides $10,000 in matching funds for our 2016 Luncheon!

The Pohlad Foundation offers grants to local organizations that are committed to strengthening Minnesotan communities. At an early age, Pohlad’s founder, Carl, was taught by his mother the importance of generosity and perseverance. Through his hard work, Carl became one of the most revered entrepreneurs in Minnesota. With his success, Carl and his wife Eloise, and their three sons Jim, Bob, and Bill established the Pohlad Family Foundation.

The Pohlad Family Foundation awarded Domestic Abuse Project a Challenge Grant. For our luncheon the Foundation will match any $100 or more donation from a new donor, or a donor who has not contributed in the last three years (up to $500).

Each year at the Transforming Families Luncheon, we raise awareness of domestic violence and its effects on the whole family, and we raise the funds needed to provide healing care to victim/survivors, perpetrators, and child witnesses. We are able to help heal roughly one out of every five individuals who come to Domestic Abuse Project for care because of individual donors. Without the support of individuals like you, without the luncheon, without matching grants like this from the Pohlad Foundation we can’t stop the intergenerational cycle of violence. Thank you!

Help us reach our matching goal! You don’t have to attend the luncheon to donate – you can make your gift today through an online donation! Click here!

Luisa Finds Healing…In Her Own Language

August 2, 2016IMG_3868

Luisa’s Story of Abuse

For the first twenty years of her life, Luisa knew only abuse.  Her father abused her mother – physically and emotionally – and when that wasn’t enough, he moved on to her.

He’d come home from work angry and any imperfections would send him into a blind rage.  On good days it would be name calling and insults, but on bad days he would hit them and threaten them with knives.  When given the chance to escape, Luisa took it by marrying the first man who promised he would never treat her that way.

In the beginning he kept his word, but little by little old familiarities returned.  If dinner took too long to make, he would make small, underhanded comments calling her “stupid” or complaining that she couldn’t do anything right.

However, it wasn’t until he moved them from their small town in Mexico to the United States that things really changed.  The abuse turned physical. Luisa was constantly hiding the bruises and cuts along her arms and chest.  Luisa was not only back in the life she swore she would never have again, but she was also alone in a foreign country.

Luisa suffered from her husband’s abuse for years. She wanted to keep the family together for the sake of her children. But once her children were grown and out of the house, she began to look for a way out of her toxic marriage.

She sought refuge with the women in her community and at her local church, but everyone sent her away.  In her circle, no one would help a woman that wanted to divorce her husband; it was then that Luisa found Domestic Abuse Project.

Luisa Joins a Women’s Group

Since March, Lucy, the Women’s Program Supervisor at DAP, has led a therapy group program entirely in Spanish in order to reach under-served women like Luisa.  “There is a huge need amongst [the Spanish-speaking] community,” Lucy tells us, “the waitlist for the next session is already full and I’ve gotten many requests for an aftercare group.”

This group has been made possible because of our partnership with the community agency, Centro Tyrone Guzman, who provides the space, support, and childcare needed.

The group sessions are very similar to DAP’s other women’s therapy groups; however, Lucy and her co-facilitator at Centro have worked hard to incorporate culturally specific aspects. “The Latina community is naturally a smaller, tighter knit group” says Lucy, “it’s not uncommon to find friends or even family members in the same therapy group.”

Likewise, many of these women have experienced other traumas in addition to those in their relationships.  Many have painful immigration stories: leaving family members or even children behind, or horrific border crossings.

In many cases, the United States did not offer the safe haven most imagined.  There are limited resources available and the language barrier has proven difficult to overcome.  Many women struggle to find jobs, and those who do are often victims of sexual harassment at work.

Healing from Trauma


Interested in supporting women like Luisa? We have a long waiting list for these services and only one Spanish-speaking therapist. Donate today and you could help us hire another Spanish-speaking women’s therapist!

Since joining the group, many of these women have finally been able to overcome shame and secrecy, and to talk about the impact of abuse on their lives. Rather than battling trauma symptoms like depression, sleeplessness, and anxiety, the women are learning tools to process their trauma and reduce symptoms.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the women,” Lucy reports. “Many say that they feel more at peace and want to continue the healing process.”

In addition to feeling more comfortable with herself, Luisa has found a new support system.  She and four other women from group have become close friends.  They spend their weekends together doing fun activities.

But most importantly, these four women sat with Luisa in court during her divorce proceedings. They held her hand through all her feelings of doubt and insecurity.  In finding Domestic Abuse Project, Luisa found the therapeutic support she needed, but also real friends who truly understood her painful experience.

Statement of Domestic Abuse Project on the recent deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Dallas Police Officers

Our hearts go out to the many families who are grieving, to the community that is suffering from these deaths, and for police officers who are mourning the loss of their colleagues.

While these current events are not directly associated with our work, they still impact all of us and our clients. We see the role that racism plays in the lives of our clients – adding stress and barriers to their lives, which inhibit their ability to heal from abuse and gain self-sufficiency.

At Domestic Abuse Project, we historically have been an agency that advocates for social change and social justice. We are committed to anti-racist and anti-oppresive practices, and we have a responsibility to change outcomes and systems that perpetuate racist practices. Informed by the lived experience of our clients, and current events facing our nation, we will continue to work towards unity, equality, and healthy, safe communities free of violence.

DAP raises awareness and shares stories of hope with new podcast

Today Domestic Abuse Project launches their new podcast! Click here to listen to our most recent episode! Thank you to Ryan of Podletter Media for creating this podcast series for us!

How to help a friend in an abusive relationship

helping handEach year countless women and men are physically and emotionally abused by their partners. Chances are you know someone – sister, friend, neighbor, co-worker, etc. – who is a victim of domestic violence. And it can be hard to know what to do. Here are a few things you can do to help someone who is being abused:

Be willing to listen, without judgment.  If someone tells you they are being abused the most important things are to believe them and to be non-judgmental.  A few other tips for how to respond to someone who tells you they are being abused are

  • Stay focused on the abusive behavior, not the abusive person
    • “It is never ok to slap someone.”
  • Empathize and tell them it is not their fault
    • “I’m sorry that happened to you.  It’s not your fault.  You don’t deserve it.”
    • “This seems hard for you.  It takes a lot of courage to admit that someone you love is hurting you
  • Express concern
    • “I’m concerned about you and your safety.”
    • “You sound scared.  You can always call back here if you need to talk.”
  • Let them know they aren’t alone
    • “If you ever need someone to talk to, you can come here.”
    • “There are a lot of people who experience the same thing, you are not alone and this is not your fault.”
  • Provide information and options
    • “Would you like the number of a domestic violence advocate that has helped others in similar situations?’

Respect their choices. Victim/survivors have been stripped of power in their relationships, so it is important to validate your friend’s feelings and let her or him make his or her own choices. Furthermore, victim/survivors know how their partner will react more than anyone else. Do not intervene with the partner until you find out if it is safe for your friend to do so. Let your friend know in advance about people you need to tell so that she or he can take precautions if necessary. Tell only those you need to tell to increase the victim’s safety and as required.

Focus on their strengths.  Victims of domestic abuse are constantly put down by their partners and told they can’t do anything right.  Give them the emotional support they need to know that they are a good person.  Help them find their strengths and skills.  Most importantly, make sure he or she knows that they deserve to live a life free of violence.

Suggest creating a safety plan.  Your friend or loved one may decide to remain in the abusive relationship.  Let them know that you are concerned for their safety and help them see how dangerous the violence could become.  Suggest they create a plan for themselves, and possibly their children, should their partner become violent again.  This plan should include a list of people to call and possibly a pre-packed suitcase filled with essentials: clothes, money, etc.

Help them find a safe place and resources for support.  Help your friend find a safe place to go in the event of an emergency.  This may be a battered women’s shelter or the home of a friend or family member. Gather information on domestic violence programs in your area.  Make sure he or she knows that relationship abuse is a crime and that there are options and services available to them.  If they are not happy with the first person or organization they contact, encourage them to reach out to another organization.

You might think that something as simple as talking to a friend about abuse couldn’t possibly make a difference. But it really does. Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask about the abuse can break through the wall of isolation that can exist around victims of relationship abuse.

To learn more about what you can do or to find resources for your friends or family members call:

Minnesota Statewide Toll Free Crisis Line: (866) 223-1111

DAP Advocates: (612) 673-3526

DAP Therapy: (612) 874-7063

The Cycle of Abuse

Picture-Educational-Piece-CycleDomestic abuse or violence is often thought of as either a one time event or a constant state of battery, when in fact it is neither.  In most abusive households or situations there is a recognized pattern or build up of abuse known as the cycle of abuse.  The cycle of abuse occurs in three phases: tension build-up, explosion, and remorse or honeymoon. While this general pattern exists in many abusive relationships – the specifics of this pattern differ from couple to couple.

The Build-Up Phase is characterized by the slow build-up of tension and stress. At Domestic Abuse Project we talk about the “same old stress,” contributing to the tension – trouble at work, parenting, finances, etc. As tensions continue to rise, victims anticipate what is coming and try to stop it.  This means they are doing whatever they can to please the abuser and anticipate his or her every need.  Unfortunately, pleasing the partner is rarely able to head off the partner’s abusive behavior.

The Explosion Phase is when the abusive or violent behavior happens. The abuser uses abuse to release tension. This includes all abuse, whether physical, emotional or psychological. This phase is normally much shorter than the others, typically lasting only 2 to 48 hours.  However, it is the most dangerous part of the cycle where violence has increased and the victim is most at risk. An explosion can be triggered by anything, though it is normally an outside stress to the partner, such as the “same old stress” that contributed to the tension build up before.  No matter the cause, the result can be a brutal physical or sexual assault, or a severe verbal attack.

The Remorse or Honeymoon Phase brings along a sense of calm following the attack.  The partner who uses abuse may apologize, act loving, beg forgiveness, or even swear that it will never happen again.  Often victims want the abuse to end not the relationship – so this phase gives the victim hope that her partner’s behavior will change.  Furthermore, the victim may blame herself and feel responsible for her partner’s behavior and future welfare.

The cycle of abuse does not get better with time.  As the pattern continues it is common to see the honeymoon periods get shorter and the acts of abuse more severe.  Furthermore, the victim may feel isolated or cut off from the rest of the world.  The partner may forbid them from reaching out to any friends or family members, or the shame of their situation may keep victims quiet.  Unless there is an intervention, such as therapy, that gives space for the partner to identify his abusive patterns and make changes, the cycle will repeat itself.

Understanding Power, Control, and Abuse

The Power and Control WheelDomestic abuse is not all cuts and bruises. in order to end abuse in our families, or in our community, it is important to be aware of the entire range of behavior that could constitute abuse.

To do this, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, in Duluth, created the Power and Control Wheel, a diagram that helps both victims and abusers identify all the behaviors that they have either experienced or utilized in their relationships.  The wheel is separated into eight distinct categories:

Intimidation is the act of making someone fearful or making someone feel inferior.  In an unhealthy relationship, intimidation can be seen throughout a wide variety of actions and behaviors.  Some of these include: pointed looks, body language, destruction of property, abusing pets, threats/implication of a threat, and displaying weapons.

Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse and is characterized by frequent verbal attacks or put downs.  These behaviors can include: name calling, insulting the victim, making the victim feel crazy or playing mind games, humiliating the victim, and making the victim feel guilty.

Isolation in domestic violence is the act of cutting the victim off from the rest of the world, especially his or her potential support system.  Behaviors include: controlling who the victim sees or interacts with, controlling what the victim does or where they go, limiting what the victim can read or watch on TV,  attempting to ruin or distance relationships with friends or family, and using jealousy as a means to justify their abuse.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming are all words that explain the abusers reasoning for the abuse.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse often minimize the abuse by making light of the situation or blowing off the victim when they want to discuss it.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse also frequently deny that the abuse occurred at all.  Finally, perpetrators of domestic abuse shift responsibility for the abusive behavior onto the victim by saying that their actions forced their hand. They can use these tactics to both rationalize their own behavior as well as manipulate and control their partner by making them feel guilty, too sensitive, and/or crazy.

Using children is another way for attackers to manipulate their victims.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse use their children to make their partner feel guilty about leaving or wanting to leave. They can use their children to relay messages to their victim. Or perpetrators of domestic abuse can force their victims to stay by threatening to take away their children.

Economic abuse is making one partner financially dependent on the other.  Victims who are unable to support themselves, and possibly their children, are less likely to leave their partners.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse can prevent their partners from getting jobs, make their partners ask for money, give their partners an allowance, take their partner’s money, spend their partners money before they get a chance to save or work towards any type of financial goals, or withhold information or access to family income.

Male privilege is the social practice of men receiving benefits or advantages based solely on their gender.  Whether consciously or not, male perpetrators use this logic to justify their abusive and domineering actions over their female partner.  Examples of male privilege in perpetrators are treating the woman as a servant, and defining the “proper roles” for both men and women.

Coercion and threats are commonly used.  Perpetrators of domestic abuse can threaten violence or physical harm, threaten to leave the victim, or threaten to commit suicide if the victim was to leave them.

These types of behaviors, in isolation, appear negligible. Yet, abusive relationships are marked by a repeated use of these behaviors, reinforcing one another and increasing asserting power and control over the victim. By identifying these various signs sooner we may be able to break the cycle and save more victims from an unnecessarily tragic fate.

Domestic Violence 101: Understanding the Basics

Domestic violence is an incredibly common crime, but seldom talked about. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1 in 3 women will be a victim of abuse in their lifetime.  However, the sad fact remains that many abuse victims experience fear and shame that keep them from sharing the abuse with their loved ones, let alone report it to the police.  Since we are likely to come across someone who has been a victim of domestic violence in our daily lives, whether we are aware or not, it is important that we be informed as to the truths surrounding domestic violence.

Domestic abuse (or domestic violence or intimate partner violence) is a pattern of behaviors in a relationship that are used by one person to gain and/or maintain power and control over the other.  Domestic abuse can be found throughout many different types and stages of relationships.  Whether the couple is dating, living together, married, homosexual or heterosexual; it does not matter, abuse can still be a painful reality.  Domestic abuse occurs in all families regardless of race, level of education, or financial standing.  Though victims of domestic abuse are typically characterized as women, statistics show that 1 in every 4 men will also experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).

The most well known type of domestic violence is physical abuse.  These behaviors commonly include: pushing, shoving, strangulation, and slapping.  However, though it is a tragic and dangerous outlet of abuse, physical attacks only make up one aspect of domestic abuse.  On a day-to-day basis, most men who use abusive behavior choose to demonstrate their power through controlling and intimidating behaviors, or what is known as psychological abuse.  Behaviors consistent with psychological abuse may include: yelling, threatening the victim with violence, ignoring, and isolating the victim from the rest of the world.

Other types of abuse include sexual, emotional, technological, and economic.  Sometimes abusive behavior can begin with minor, controlling actions.  This behavior can last for years, only slowly escalating.  Victims of abuse can become accustomed to the abuse and not realize they are in an abusive relationship until an explosive incident occurs years later.

While it is easy to pass judgement on victims who stay in these abusive relationships – claiming that victims are simply too weak to leave – leaving an abusive relationship can be just as dangerous as staying.  Women are far more likely to become victims of homicide when they separate from their spouse/partner.  In reality most survivors of domestic abuse end up leaving their partners a total of 6-8 times before they are finally able to move on from the relationship.

Any number of factors may keep a victim in an abusive relationship.  One of the most common reasons is a fear of losing their children.  Any relationship with children is more complex by nature; as such, victims may want to keep the family together for their children or may fear losing custody of their children as a result of the separation.  Other reasons for staying include: financial dependency, lack of support, shame, fear of partner suicide, denial, and love.  Many victims of domestic abuse still love their partners and only want to end the abuse, not the relationship.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior. While not an excuse for abuse, often men who use abuse were victims of abuse as children. Because of this, perpetrators, with the proper education and therapeutic support, including taking responsibility for the abuse, can change their behavior and engage in healthy relationships. Victims and witnesses, as well, can benefit from therapy and support to overcome the trauma they’ve experienced and overcome their shame and self-blame.

Want to learn more about domestic violence and how you can help? Visit the education page on our website www.domesticabuseproject.org.  If you know someone who is experiencing abuse call DAP (612-874-7063) or the statewide domestic violence hotline (866) 223-1111.

How We Heal: DAP Reflections on Orlando, Stanford, and Domestic Violence

For the past several weeks, bad news has flooded in. The Orlando shooting. The Stanford rape case. Multiple domestic violence murders in Minnesota. Again, and again, we are torn apart by the hate and violence in our society.

At Domestic Abuse Project we’ve been wrestling with the meaning these tragic events have for our work. These events affect us both personally and professionally. Rape culture is intricately linked to the misogyny that makes domestic violence okay. The Orlando shooter allegedly had a history of domestic violence that went unchecked. We worry when we don’t hear from our clients for a week or two – will they be the next homicide victim in Minnesota?

Through our work at Domestic Abuse Project we have an intimate look into the lives of families struggling with domestic violence. We see that these families don’t have peace in their homes, and how that radiates out – children learn abusive behavior is okay, weapons get bought and sold, individuals struggle with mental illness. People in pain can express this pain by hurting other people. And the downward spiral goes on. Without peace in our homes, how can we expect peace on our streets, in our communities, and in our world?

In times like these it is easy to make villains out of the other – whoever that is. In domestic violence cases that’s often the perpetrator. It is easy to see the abuser as a bad guy with no redeeming qualities. But in our therapy programs we can’t do that. If we see the abuser as a solely bad guy, we aren’t able to relate to our clients. The women who love their partners clearly love them for a reason. If we can’t see that, we aren’t providing therapy from a place of compassion and understanding. While not an excuse for abuse, the men who come to our programs often have a history of family trauma and abuse that taught them how to act. If we can’t see that, we can’t help men identify their own patterns of abuse and change them. We can’t really heal any of our clients if we demonize – perpetuating more pain – rather than seeking to understand, no matter how hard that can be.

During these terrible days, perhaps this is a lesson for all of us – we need to find some understanding of the other. This doesn’t make abusive or violent actions okay (we don’t ever condone abuse), but it does bring a little more healing into the world, rather than hate.

Case Management team

Katie (left) and Jodi (right) provide vital case management services to DAP clients – helping clients overcome the barriers they face towards self-sufficiency.

With Support from Our Donors, DAP Expands Case Management Services – Helps Clients Gain Self-Sufficiency

After fleeing her abuser she didn’t have a place to stay.

He needed help navigating the veteran’s benefit system.

She wanted to find a job, but wasn’t sure who would watch her kids while at work, especially with the cost of childcare.

The individuals who come to DAP to find healing from domestic violence aren’t just seeking immediate orders for protection, or long-term therapeutic care – they have a myriad of needs, unique to each individual. And leaving these needs unmet is a huge barrier for victim survivors to find healing.

Imagine trying to find affordable housing, a new job, transportation to get there, and daycare for your children, all while battling the depression, sleeplessness, and trauma many of the victim survivors at DAP experience.

In 2016, in partnership with the University of Minnesota and our donors, we expanded case management by hiring a Women and Youth Case Manager. While our advocacy program meets the immediate, crisis needs of victims, and our therapy program supports clients’ long-term process of changing abusive behavior or healing from abuse, we were missing that middle piece for our women and youth programs – helping clients with housing, employment, childcare, medical needs, transportation, or food and clothing.

Katie Augustin joined our case management team in March to fill this gap in our services. Together, Jodi (Men’s Team Case Manager) and Katie (Women and Youth Case Manager) support all clients who come to DAP for care. Katie, whose background is in Psychology and Gender Studies, has worked in various shelters and residential care facilities for youth. She was interested in the new case manager position at DAP because she said she likes to “problem solve.”

When asked what is the biggest need they see in the clients they work with, Katie and Jodi unanimously said, “Housing, housing, and housing.” Of the victims they work with many are searching for affordable housing. Someone fleeing their abuser may have nowhere else to live, or have limited resources to rent a place. Affordable housing is already a problem for many in the Twin Cities housing market, but imagine leaving the primary breadwinner, or going from two incomes to one. Your options shrink. Most clients have to stay in shelters or lean on friends and family for housing while they wait two or more years to access public housing. Waiting lists are long.

In addition, domestic violence victims face added complexity in connecting to public resources such as housing vouchers, cash assistance, or food programs. Before leaving an abuser, victim survivors may have a decent family income or a support system that provides childcare, for example. But after fleeing an abuser victim survivors may not have access to these same resources. And the paperwork they have to submit for benefits (such as tax returns) may show that they do. Case managers advocate on behalf of their clients for an understanding of the unique situation of domestic violence victim survivors.

For this reason, sometimes Katie and Jodi’s work is an intricate maze of paperwork. Both Katie and Jodi were frank about the challenge of their jobs. They’ve placed countless calls to the county and state offices that provide public support to disadvantaged people, clarifying the rules or tracking down the correct paperwork. But this only serves to motivate their work. As Katie says, “If this is my full-time job and it can be a challenge, I don’t know how any domestic violence victim could do this alone, with all the other difficulties they face in their life right now.”

Indeed, there are victim survivors who come to DAP who are still in relationship with their abuser, and they tell Katie and Jodi they’re hesitant to leave because “where would they go?” “Who would help with the children?” “How would they find transportation to get to work?”

Domestic violence victim survivors have more on their plate than anyone should have to manage. But DAP’s case managers help take a few things off that plate. They alleviate a victim survivors’ worry about the needs she is facing, so she can truly focus on healing. They provide connections to the resources victim survivors need to finally leave their abuser. They provide a shoulder to lean on.

As Katie says, “It is a huge thing to sit with someone and just provide support – for victim survivors to have one person who can listen to these problems and help fix them.”

Thank you to the University of Minnesota and our donors for making this program expansion possible.

Learn More! Join a “From Secrets to Safety” Tour!


Join our Executive Director, Sarah Clyne, for breakfast, and this free, one-hour behind-the-scenes look at the work of ending domestic abuse.  Held at Domestic Abuse Project’s main office, you will learn about the dynamics of domestic abuse and the experience of an individual impacted by domestic violence. During this informative and moving hour you will walk in the shoes of domestic violence victims, witnesses, and perpetrators and the therapy and advocacy experiences that help them find healing.

Each “From Secrets to Safety” focuses on a specific component of our work to end domestic abuse – working with perpetrators, working with victims, and working with child witnesses. You will learn about the broad overview of our work, and then have a hands on insight into the experience of specific group therapy programs. Choose the topic that is most interesting to you!

“From Secrets to Safety” events are held promptly from 8am to 9am on the following dates:
May 18, 2016: Women’s Program focus
June 15, 2016: Men’s Program focus
July 20, 2016: Children’s Program focus
August 17, 2016: Women’s Program focus
September 21, 2016: Men’s Program focus

To RSVP contact Anna Zaros at azaros@mndap.org or 612-874-7063 x207

Tours take place at 204 W. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404


The Hot Spots Project Heads to South Minneapolis

N Mpls hotspots-1

North Minneapolis Hot Spots

April 28, 2016
As Leah walked up to the door with the police officer she didn’t know what to expect. The family’s home they were visiting was designated a Hot Spot due to the numerous 911 calls they made regarding domestic violence. Regardless, every family is different. Hot Spots is a project in Minneapolis that began in April 2015 from a grant-funded pilot program developed by 5 community partners: the Minneapolis Police Department, City Attorney’s Office, Minneapolis Health Department, Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, and the Domestic Abuse Project.

A Hot Spot is a concentrated area of violent crime identified by the Minneapolis Police Department. Hot Spots were identified when numerous 911 calls were made by Minneapolis citizens primarily related to domestic violence and resulted in no police report being filed. Around 17,000 domestic violence related calls are made each year and only 20-25% of those calls result in a report being made. Domestic assault accounted for 33% of police reports previously made at the addresses Leah and an officer were visiting.

So far, a team comprised of one Minneapolis officer and one Therapist from DAP (Leah) have visited over 285 home in the Hot Spots areas in order to increase positive engagement between victims/offenders and uniformed officers, increase awareness of domestic violence related services and providers, as well as increase information about and access to community based resources, provide an access point for domestic violence related follow up and assistance, and assess the barriers within families to services and community based resources.

Leah Martin graduated with a Master’s of Social Work from Augsburg College in July 2014 and has been a DAP therapist ever since working in the Men’s and Children’s Program. Her involvement in the Hot Spots program began when she was asked by the community partners to assist in the pilot program due to her experience with working across programs with various populations. Walking up to someone’s door you’ve never met before Leah stated, “You never know what you are going to get. It is also something that the resident is not expecting so there can be a lot of different feelings and initial reactions to a woman and police officer standing at ones doorstep and I want to be respectful and sensitive of that.”

Leah stated that when visiting families with multiple domestic violence 911calls it’s really eye opening to see how many people are unaware that domestic violence is happening in their own homes. Although it can be surprising to some families, ultimately most of them are grateful that there is such a program looking out for them. They are relieved that there are such resources actually available to them in their communities if they were to need them. Up until last month, the Hot Spots project has only been operational in North Minneapolis, but beginning in March 2016 the Hot Spots project has expanded to South Minneapolis as well. In North Minneapolis, Leah and an officer visit homes twice a week in 4 hour shifts. This is the frequency they also hope to get once the South Minneapolis Hot Spots project becomes more developed. In 2015 alone, the team visited 382 Hot Spots!

Since the Hot Spots project’s start last year over 285 homes have been visited and 75% resulted in face to face contact. Over 83% percent of those contacts allowed Leah and a Minneapolis police officer to discuss domestic violence with the families and provide them education about resources as well as discuss any barriers that the family was facing. Ultimately, 47.8% of those families who spend time talking with Leah and an officer accepted resources, handouts, and/or business cards.

As a result of the Hot Spots project, 16 referrals were made to offenders for domestic violence related programming, 8 victims wrote safety plans, 13 victims requested assistance with an Order for Protection, and 3 new police reports were made related to issues in the home. Although the Hot Spots project has assisted numerous families already, it is the project’s hope that more will be reached. With the expansion of the project to South Minneapolis, Hot Spots still hope to develop strategies of intervention to improve community access/ use of resources, continue data gathering and analysis to identify barriers and create action plans around those barriers, as well as expand its funding to explore other domestic violence Hot Spots throughout Hennepin County.


The City of Minneapolis and DAP Partner in a 24 Hour Domestic Abuse Hotline

April 21, 2016

911- 24 hr hotline-page-001“Hi, this is Pakou and I’m calling from the 24 Hour Domestic Abuse Hotline”. Pakou Yang says this line almost every day. Pakou is the Volunteer Coordinator and Advocate for the Domestic Abuse Project’s 24 Hour Hotline. Since January 2015, the hotline has served thousands of domestic violence victims offering them resources towards safety and support after a domestic violence incident has occurred. Pakou herself provides services offered by the 24 Hour Hotline as well as recruits, trains, and supports the volunteers that offer their time to make the 24 Hour Hotline successful.

Everyday the Minneapolis Police Department receives numerous calls regarding domestic violence related incidents. They contact the 24 Hour Hotline staff every time a domestic assault related crime occurs. The Domestic Abuse Project’s 24 Hour Hotline will then immediately attempt to contact the victim of the incident to offer them support and any information they may need to go forward. DAP advocates will follow-up in the days after the assault in order to help the victim create a safety plan, unless a victim does not want to be contacted.

DAP’s 24 Hour Hotline offers victims numerous resources. Emergency shelter is just one of the resources that the 24 Hour Hotline can provide to victims of domestic assault. Another resource includes helping victims navigate the court system and creating Orders For Protection if necessary. The 24 Hour Hotline can refer a victim to a Victims Witness Assistant in case the victim needs/wants to go to court to make a statement regarding their domestic violence incident. These assistants prepare the victim for any questions the court may have as well as let them know what they can expect in the courtroom.

Since 2015, the 24 Hour Hotline has helped guide thousands of domestic violence victims’ lives towards safety. With this in mind, the program continues to expand and is proud to be operating mainly by the hands of volunteers who are truly passionate about the service they provide.


DAP Enhances Recruitment Efforts at Veterans Court

February 29, 2016
Jodi vet court croppedWith the Change Step Program entering its fifth year, Domestic Abuse Project is expanding the program’s recruiting efforts to reach even more veterans who use abusive behavior through targeted outreach at the Hennepin County Veterans Court. Jodi Schipp, the Change Step case manager at Domestic Abuse Project, attends Veterans Court every other week to follow-up on her clients’ cases as well as extend information about DAP to potential new clients. The Hennepin County Veterans Court is a problem solving court that serves veterans charged with a criminal offense, including domestic violence. The Veterans Court program differs from regular county court in that it combines more frequent court appearances with intensive probation supervision. More frequent judicial reviews, as well as the support of the programs at the Veteran’s Affairs, allows for a veteran’s rehabilitation be monitored closer than at other courts in the county.

A veteran’s case will be referred to the Hennepin County Veterans Court upon agreement of both parties involved. A veteran is initially referred to the Veterans Court during their first court arraignment in a county courtroom.  After both parties’ consent is gained, every case is screened by a Court Screener to best conclude if a veteran is eligible for the Veterans Court program. Eligibility requires an individual to be a veteran, be charged in the county with a non-violent felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor offense, and be diagnosed with a treatable behavior such as mental illness or chemical dependency. A veteran accepted into the court program will be placed on probation by the judge and is assigned to a supervising probation officer. A veteran’s appearance in court will be more frequent at the beginning of their probation, sometimes being required to appear every 2 weeks. As the veteran stabilizes and engages in required programming their appearances will become less frequent. After graduating from Veterans Court, Judge Meyers requests a 6 month follow-up with each veteran as well.

So how does DAP play a role in the Hennepin County Veterans Court?  Veterans accepted into the court program with a domestic assault charge have one to two years during their probation to attend a domestic assault program of their choice. With this in mind, Jodi attends the Veterans Court several times a month to reach those veterans seeking treatment for using domestic violence in their relationships. Having herself served in the Minnesota National Guard for over 11 years with the Military Police, Jodi understands the difficulties veterans may face when military life ends; and she knows the treatment that can help them end their abusive behavior and learn healthy ways to engage in relationships.

The Domestic Abuse Project is one of the only domestic violence organizations in Minnesota that meets the state requirements for treating domestic abuse perpetrators and its victims. In addition, Change Step is the only program in the country centered towards treating veterans who have used abusive behavior. Continually improving DAP’s recruiting efforts, as well as collaborating with other veterans services, provides those veterans we recruit from the Hennepin County Veterans Court with the best treatment and support they can get in the state of Minnesota.


Donor Spotlight-Barbara Levie

February 22, 2016


Barbara was initially introduced to Domestic Abuse Project by friends who invited her to the DAP’s annual Transforming Families Luncheon. For many years she wasn’t able to attend, but after her first luncheon three years ago she was drawn into DAP’s work.

Barbara works as a part-time office manager at an ad specialties company. She loves her flexible schedule that allows ample time for her hobbies: hiking, fishing, and biking. And she spends her time enjoying these activities in Minneapolis, and with her partner in Ely.

Barbara is passionate about issues including education and the health and wellness of women and families. For her, the work of Domestic Abuse Project incorporates these two passions. DAP educates men, women, and children about the cycle of abuse and how to break this cycle in their lives. And the work of DAP recognizes that people who have been abused need services that address their physical and emotional health, in addition to education. Barbara believes these comprehensive services , for the whole family, can help to end the cycle of abuse.

For the last two years Barbara has enjoyed being a table captain at the luncheon. In addition to supporting an important cause, Barbara finds it meaningful to share these experiences with her friends.

We are grateful Barbara is a part of our DAP community. Thank you Barbara, for all of your support!

“Abuse doesn’t have to be actually hitting or beating. Emotional and psychological abuse can be just as challenging, and yet often we don’t recognize it or the damaging effect of it. But DAP teaches us that what can be done to your head or your heart is just as unhealthy as what can happen to your body.” -Barbara


DAP Partners with the U of M to Improve Domestic Abuse Interventions

MHealth logo

February 15, 2016

Domestic abuse creates significant health consequences. Women may have obvious physical symptoms such as bruises, broken bones, or cuts, but it can also cause sleeplessness, anxiety, PTSD, and various somatic symptoms.

Health care settings offer a unique opportunity to intervene with domestic abuse. Research actually shows that if doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers screen for abuse, and provide resources to help when needed, they can reduce the abuse a client may suffer from in the future.

To take advantage of this opportunity, with a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Domestic Abuse Project and the University of Minnesota have partnered to test a system of effective intervention in health care settings to improve our work to end abuse.

The project includes several steps, including training all healthcare providers within the University of Minnesota’s Clinics and Surgery Center to screen for domestic abuse and refer clients to relevant services.

Additionally, a case manager will be hired by Domestic Abuse Project to both coordinate the project, and to build referral relationships within the Clinics and among community agencies serving domestic violence victims. The case manager will be able to help doctors and nurses become familiar with the resources available to domestic violence victims, and feel comfortable referring clients to these services.

Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the project will allow the University of Minnesota researchers to analyze the effectiveness of this work and potentially encourage replication of these kinds of projects in other health care settings.

“Assessment and intervention for domestic violence in a health care setting is essential to effective care for victim/survivors, as often they access medical care during crisis and long before they may seek other legal or mental health services. Through this grant, we can provide them with care earlier, which we hope will improve outcomes for victim/survivors in our community.”
-Angela Lewis-Dmello, Director of Client Services


Stories of Healing and Hope: Self-Control and Scribble Drawings

Scribble drawing art

Scribble drawings offer another method for our male clients to learn to regulate their reactions and maintain self-control.

February 8, 2016

It may just look like a bunch of scribbles to everyone else, but that‘s kind of the point.

The twelve men in Miranda’s Process Group sat in a circle drawing scribbles. While Miranda, a therapist at DAP, read a meditation on gratitude, with phrases like, “Who do I appreciate?” and “What have others done in my life that I am thankful for?” the men took markers and drew with a free flowing hand.

After they finished their scribble drawing the men, who are all in the program because they have used abuse, looked into the image, turned it around, colored it, and reflected on what they saw in the drawing.

In Process Group the men have to attend for twelve weeks and complete three assignments: the  “Self-Control Plan,” “Taking Responsibility,” and a “Maintenance Plan.” But within this framework, therapists are free to use various techniques and modalities to guide the men through understanding their abusive patterns and practicing healthy behaviors to replace those patterns.

With the scribble drawings,  Miranda’s ultimate goal was to provide a tool for the men to regulate their emotions better during times of stress.

Psychologically, when a person thinks about things they are grateful for during times of stress, they are able to reduce their symptoms of stress and control their reactions much more quickly. Their heart rate could go down or they could stop sweating. The hormones flooding the body, which produces a flight or fight mode could slow.

These sorts of reactions are what the men must learn to be aware of when creating their self-control plan. They know the words or actions that trigger their stress levels to rise, and they must learn to regulate those reactions in order to avoid abusive behavior in the future.

“This is hard work,” Miranda says, “and I want it to be hard. I need to see the guys working on their issues and changing their behavior.” But, as Miranda explains, this hard work needs to be coupled with unique approaches that engage the men and give them tools to change their behaviors.



Through the Men’s Program, men who use abuse learn how to create healthy patterns to replace their abusive behavior.

Activities like scribble drawings, though they may seem simple,  serve many purposes. It helps the men participate – different styles of activities can engage clients in different ways. Through sharing their insights, these activities help them bond, which is necessary for them to hold each other accountable. And lastly, it provides another method the men can use in their daily lives to disrupt their pattern of abusive behavior.

When the men in Miranda’s group shared what their drawings meant, the insight was surprisingly profound.

In one client’s meandering lines he saw the troubled path that led him to his arrest.  Another man had trouble coloring in the drawing, and knew this was part of his need for control and perfectionism. And lastly, another had colored bright splotches amidst a world of gray—he saw images of hope and change amidst  reminders of his difficult past.

Art therapists believe that spontaneous art like scribble drawings can help release the unconscious and lead to self-understanding. And, with creative activities such as this, the men in our program are able to achieve this result—a self-understanding that is one more step towards ending their abusive behavior.



Stories of Healing and Hope: Ashley’s Crisis

After driving 20 hours straight from Virginia, and arriving in Minnesota with no shelter, no money, and no resources, Ashley and her 3 young children found themselves at the doorstep of DAP’s Advocacy offices. Ashley was fleeing her abuser. She fled to Minnesota because she had family here – but they couldn’t take her in – she was afraid that her abuser would follow her and harm her and her family if he found her. Ashley felt hopeless as she arrived to the offices in her beat-up van in search of help, after closing. Just as they were locking up, an advocate noticed Ashley, physically and emotionally drained, approach the door.

Ashley was a victim of years of continued physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and she had been scared to leave because she wasn’t sure what resources she would have to care for her three children without her husband’s income. Recently, however, she had reached her breaking point and decided to seek the help she desperately needed. On this late Friday afternoon, Ashley and the Advocate sat down to begin the intake process immediately. Having no resources at her disposal, it was important to provide Ashley with referrals for shelter and food for her and her children.

After Ashley was safely set up in a local shelter, the advocates met with her a week later to focus on completing the documentation seeking an Order for Protection. An Order for Protection is a legal document issued by a state court which requires one person to stay away from another person in situations where there is domestic violence. The Advocates continued to accompany Ashley to all the court hearings about her Order for Protection, explaining the process as it happened.

Ashley’s story is just one example of the work our Advocates do day in and day out with victims of domestic abuse. In any given day, Advocates call victims listed in police reports from the night before, attend domestic violence court to support victims, meet with walk-in and appointment clients to assess their immediate needs, and write orders for protection, among many other tasks. Their role is to be responsive to victims in crisis.

As a DAP Advocate, Nora Smyth explained, “Advocates must be assertive, flexible, compassionate, open minded, supportive, and resourceful as they provide direct services to people in need.” For example, when Ashley had her first meeting with an Advocate, it was vital for the advocate to complete a thorough intake, because any information shared with the Advocates about abuse or the clients’ needs related to safety, can be brought into a court hearing related to the abuse.

Like many of our Advocates, Nora was drawn toward advocacy because she is herself a survivor of domestic violence. She felt her firsthand experience with abuse would allow her to relate to the victims’ situations and express compassion and understanding even when the victim finds the abuse unspeakable. She does this work to help restore hope for clients when the feel hopeless. Often domestic violence victims have no support system and have lost everything at the hands of their abuser. But our Advocates are often the first step in a new beginning for these victims.

For Ashley, the path to separating from her husband completely was a long one. The Advocates supported Ashley through multiple court hearings and dismissals. Ashley was never able to secure an order for protection, but she was able to restart a new life in Minnesota, states away from the abuse. Through the ups and downs of this process, Ashley was grateful to have the advocacy team by her side. It made all the difference that there were people who believed her story and helped her find strategies for staying safe. Indeed, amidst all the many tasks, this is what Advocates do best – restore hope to the lives of domestic abuse victims.


Spread Hope, Support Healing – Adopt a DAP Family this Holiday!

The holidays are an opportunity for us to celebrate love and family, and to reflect on the abundance of the last year. But for many parents in DAP’s Children’s Program, the holidays are also a time of anxiety, and a reminder of the year’s struggles.

That’s why DAP has launched a holiday Adopt-a-Family Program.

You can sign up to sponsor a family starting Monday, November 9th!

When you sign up, a DAP staff member who knows the family will provide you with a list of gift ideas – both ‘needs’ and ‘wants.’ This list might include grocery cards, gas cards, clothes, and household items, as well as toys for the kids. You’ll also get a brief bio of the family so that you can get to know them a little better.

Questions? Interested? Contact Sara Spafford Freeman: SaraSFreeman123@gmail.com

2015 Facebook Advert




Finances & Abuse: From Shame to Hope

economic-abuse-2-268x300Going through a divorce, Maya never expected to uncover the financial mess her abusive husband had left her family in. Being married for over 20 years, Maya had predicted their savings account to have grown substantially since her husband had set it up. After going through the couple’s finances with her lawyer, Maya was faced with the reality of what her husband had done. She knew her husband had an impulsive behavior when it came to money, but she had never imagined him delving into their savings account for his own recreational purposes. Maya was in distress as to how she would now support her three children alone, as well as pay off her astounding legal fees.

A month earlier, Maya had graduated from the Women’s Program at the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP). Recently, Lucy, the Women’s Program Supervisor had contacted Maya and informed her of an educational group the organization was soon holding called “Finances & Abuse.” The optional group was only for women who had graduated the program at DAP and she figured at this point it would only help instead of harm her.

Financial abuse can take many different forms, but Maya’s story is a familiar one. Her husband had aggressively controlled the family finances and Maya agreed rather than upset her husband. She thought agreeing with her partner would protect her and her children from further abuse in their household. Unfortunately, the abuse did not stop. Maya began to feel like once again she had made the wrong decision in her relationship. Every time her husband abused her psychologically Maya would doubt herself. How was she a good role model for her children when she could not earn her husband’s respect? She asked herself this question countless times before she began to realize that maybe it wasn’t her, but her partner that was damaging her and their relationship.

economic abuse 2The “Finances & Abuse” group was led by Lucy, the Women’s Program Supervisor, and Sean, the Intern Program Supervsior, at DAP and was scheduled to meet once a week for a total of eight weeks. Previous to his counseling career, Sean was a financial counselor and devised a curriculum for the group that would best help them understand the psychological stress and power finances can have in a relationship. Sean shared, “those that have experienced direct economic abuse and/or are recovering from the effects of an abusive relationship know that those dynamics create financial problems unique to them that would not be advised in a typical financial counseling arena.”  When understanding domestic violence, many people assume the abuse is solely emotional or physical, but domestic abuse can span a wide range of psychological arrays, and finances are just one major part of that collection.

Before beginning the Women’s Program at DAP, women are asked what type of abuse they are experiencing or have experienced by the partner. 90% of women respond that they are being financially abused by their partner. Financial abuse entails various stress that the abuser can put on their partner such as forbidding them to work or spending the partner’s income as their own. Ultimately, all these financial experiences leave the victim feeling ashamed. Shame is the key feeling the “Finances & Abuse” group works to change.

Week after week of attending the “Finances & Abuse” group, Maya began to feel like she could finally start to take control of her own finances and devise a plan to help her climb out of debt. Each of the sessions she attended varied depending on topic. The group started with Understanding the Psychology of Finances and grew to end with creating a Cash Flow Analysis. Along with an Understanding Credit, Goal Setting, and a Debt Reduction Strategy class Maya began to process how she could apply these lessons to her own life. Alongside other members of the group, Maya designed her own cash flow analysis to help her keep track of the money going in and out of her finances. The cash flow analysis helped her set financial goals as well as changed her expectations on how she could spend her money. With a concrete financial plan in mind, Maya left with hope and possibility that she could create a steady financial future for her family.


Miranda’s Experiment: Role-playing in Men’s Group

IMG_0180“This is never going to work.” “My partner won’t understand.” This is the pushback Men’s Therapist, Miranda, would receive over and over again as she worked with the guys in her process group to create their self-control plan – their plan to avoid using abuse.

In the men’s program at Domestic Abuse Project, guys don’t always want to be there.  Many are court ordered – they aren’t in group by choice. They can be resistant to the fact that they did anything wrong, or they can downplay incidents of violence they have perpetrated.

The men’s program is long, at a minimum of 24 weeks, so that therapists have plenty of time to work with the men – helping them move away from this resistance so that they can take ownership of their violent behaviors and learn ways to control their actions.

With so much resistance to the plausibility of the self-control plan, Miranda came up with a new idea. Role-playing.

Miranda wasn’t sure how the new idea would go over. Role-playing can be difficult for a lot of folks, let alone the guys who really struggle with being open to a new process. Miranda worked to create scenarios that truly reflected the experiences of the men, giving each “partner” a description of the history of the relationship, allowing them to adopt this role. The men had to practice sharing their self-control plan with their “partner” and their “partner” had to accurately reflect how the discussion might evolve – the partner worrying due to a history of violence, of substance abuse, or even just a pattern of unwillingness to communicate about any issues in the relationship.

Miranda was surprised by the results – the guys were into it! Sitting in a semi-circle they leaned in close, drawn in to every interaction. They kept yelling, “scene!” to start and end the role-plays. Once one of the guys starting blaming his “partner” or using unproductive language, the other guys immediately would call him out on it! Other group members jumped in, adopting the “partner” role to add other plausible reactions, helping the guys practice in a scenario as real to life as possible.

More than that, the “partners” played their role well – engaging in a difficult topic in a true to life way. They used all the emotions that bubble up when discussing safety after violence. Many of the men portrayed their “partner” as compassionate and understanding. Every single pair was able to reach a positive resolution by the end of the role-play.

Usually when the clock nears 8pm, the guys are itching to get out of process group. But this night they wanted to keep role-playing, so much so that Miranda had to cut them off at 8:15. The guys urged that all men who write a self-control plan should have to role-play sharing the plan with their partner. And they wanted to help write the role-play scenarios themselves.

The hard work these men had done in the therapy group was paying off – they could take the perspective of their partner in an empathic way, they could call each other out on any partner-blaming or defensiveness, and they could successfully reach a resolution without resorting to abuse.  These are the moments that show that the slow work of therapy leads to a future without abuse for these men, their partners, and their families. This is the everyday work of creating a world free of domestic violence.

Support Healing: Help Us Provide “Snack Packs” for our Child Clients

Many of the children we work with are facing food insecurity and don’t have the resources to meet their basic needs – they are hungry. It is difficult for them to focus on healing from domestic abuse and trauma when they are concerned about where their next meal is coming from. And, we retain more clients – families come back for services – when we can help them meet some basic needs.

One way we’ve been helping meet clients’ basic needs is through Snack Packs. Snack Packs are brown bags full of items that form a fairly nutritional whole, are shelf-stable, and can be prepared without a stove.When children comes for therapy services they are able to take home a Snack Pack.

We rely greatly on volunteers to fulfill this need of our clients, to provide Snack Packs. Can you help us fill our shelves with Snack Packs?

Generally, here is what has been included in each bag before (brands don’t really matter, but might help with your planning):

  • chocolate pudding snack
  • small juice box (kirkland brand, apple, fruit punch, and apple berry options)
  • 1 fruit leather
  • Single serve oatmeal (just add water)
  • Granola bar
  • Fruit cup
  • Single serve Easy Mac (just add water)
  • Snack bag of Annie’s bunny crackers (assorted cinnamon, cheddar, chocolate chip, chocolate)
  • Snack bag of Snyder’s pretzels

Folks have either donated the bags pre-packaged, or donated all the things, and staff have packaged them. Feel free to email Anna Zaros at azaros@mndap.org or call at 612-874-7063 x207 if you have any questions or to coordinate drop-off of your donation.


 SarahMeet the Interns: Sarah

Sarah is working towards her MSW in Clinical Social Work at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas. She hopes to gain a more intimate understanding of how domestic violence affects families as well as deepen her awareness of how to provide healthy alternatives throughout her time at DAP. Ending domestic violence is important to Sarah because she believes that helping one family or one generation heal can help make larger cultural shifts that our society deeply needs.





Meet the Interns: ZouaZoua

Zoua is working towards her Masters of Social Work degree in Clinical Mental Health. She decided to intern at DAP because she wanted to be a part of the holistic approach to ending domestic abuse. She believes that ending domestic abuse allows for the individual and family system to live a good quality of life which is a basic human right.






"It's important to tackle the issue as a community."

“It’s important to tackle the issue as a community.

Meet the Interns: Shellie

Shellie is working towards her MA in Counseling Psychology at Saint Mary’s University. She hopes to gain new and different insight and perspectives surrounding the issues of domestic violence throughout her time at DAP. Ending domestic abuse is important to Shellie because she knows that it is a social issue and affects us all.



Meet the Interns: Silvia (not pictured)

Silvia is studying to earn her Master of the Arts in Clinical Psychology at Argosy University – Twin Cities. She was drawn to DAP because of the belief in the empowerment of women and children through the use of a nondirective, person-centered approach. Throughout her time here, Silvia hopes to gain a better understanding of trauma-informed care, and hopes that our society will improve as a whole for future generations through the work that DAP does.

Meet the Interns: LaKandis (not pictured)

LaKandis is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services at Metropolitan State University. She decided to intern at DAP because she hopes to gain skills that she can utilize for violence prevention. She wants to learn to be part of the solution to end domestic violence. This is an important goal for her because she believes that women deserve the right to be happy and safe in relationships.

I believe in the structure and importance of family. A healthy family has a powerful impact on the well-being of individuals.

I believe in the structure and importance of family. A healthy family has a powerful impact on the well-being of individuals.

Meet the Interns: Laurie

Laurie is studying both Art Therapy and Marriage & Family Therapy at Adler Graduate School. She hopes to use art therapy to work with women and children rescued from human trafficking/sexual slavery, and she sees a correlation between domestic violence that is part of so many stories of these survivors. Throughout her time with DAP, Laurie hopes to learn more about domestic violence in the community – especially how to use effective and sensitive approaches to use with domestic violence survivors.



Meet the Interns: Britt (not pictured)

Britt is currently working towards a Master of Social Work degree from St. Kates/St. Thomas. She is most looking forward to seeing the progression of clients’ growth as they move through DAP’s programs. Ending domestic abuse is important to Britt because it’s a widespread issue that is rarely discussed even though it affects so many people either directly or indirectly. She believes that breaking the cycle of violence is important for promoting healthy relationships in future generations.



Meet the Interns: Jenna

Jenna is working towards her B.A. in Gender Studies with a minor in Violence Prevention and Intervention at Metro State University. Ending domestic abuse is important to her because she believes that all people should have the ability to live a happy, successful life.








“Abuse tends to be cyclical. By ending it with one person, we have the possibility to prevent it from occurring among others.”

Meet the Interns: Alex

Alex is studying Counseling Psychology at St. Mary’s University. She is interested in social justice and working with people who struggle with anger, anxiety, emotional regulation, and other difficult emotions. During her time as an intern, Alex hopes to gain empathy, courage, counseling skills, and insight into why abuse happens and how it can be prevented.








“I believe that the key to ending domestic violence requires both men and women to engage.”

Meet the Interns: Chee

Chee comes to us here at DAP from Augsburg College, where she is currently working towards her Master of Social Work degree. She decided to intern at DAP because she works as a domestic violence advocate for women and children, and wanted to gain more knowledge of the work to help perpetrators. Throughout her work with clients, Chee hopes to become a more well-rounded, open-minded advocate so that she can better serve the community.




Picture3Coming from a home where domestic violence took place and being a witness, I would never want anyone to go through that.

Meet the Interns: Armani

Armani is currently studying Psychology with an emphasis in Family Studies at Concordia University. She is coming full circle as an intern at DAP after having completed the Children’s Program when she was growing up. Armani hopes to be able to learn more about others’ experiences compared to her own, and hopes to better understand domestic violence from the male perspective.


“Being an Advocate is for me an honor because my liberation is bound with those who I work with. It is not only my responsibility to help others, but it is my capability.”

Meet the Advocates: Nora

Nora has been an Advocate at DAP for 6 months and is using her personal experiences to guide her in her work with clients. She became inspired to join our Advocacy team after having her own experience in which she felt that she had no voice in the criminal justice system, and wanted to help empower other women to have a voice. Nora believes in the mission of DAP and finds that if even only one person is helped by her work, she knows it was worth it. She identifies her work as an opportunity to heal other people by practicing the arts of seeing, feeling, hearing, understanding, and seeing the value of clients and accepting their perspective and needs.





“Knowing that I went through this and made it out keeps me going. I know that with hard work, my clients can make it through also. Nothing is easy and it takes hard work, whether you are the abuser or the perpetrator. Hurt people hurt people.”


Meet the Advocates: Barbara

Barbara has been an Advocate at DAP for 16 years and she’s seen it all. She became an Advocate because she is a survivor of domestic abuse herself, and knows that people in these situations often don’t want the relationship to end, they just want the abuse to end – and DAP can help to make that happen. What keeps Barbara going is knowing that she can help survivors live a life free from abuse, and that they know that there is someone who cares about them and will provide a shoulder to lean on. She finds comfort in knowing that she can help people find the power to turn abusive situations around, and that it is not the fault of the victim.

August 2015


Ben and the Protection Potion


Leah still remembers Ben every day with the Protection Potion on her desk.

When Ben’s mother told him he would not be coming to DAP anymore, he was confused. He loved coming and playing with all the different toys in the play rooms, and he liked talking with his therapist, Leah. Who would Leah play with when he left? How would he know she would not forget about him?
More than anything, Ben was worried Leah would miss him too much. So he created a protection potion to make sure she would be okay when he left—that way she would always have something to remember him by.

On Ben’s last day of play therapy, he took a mason jar off one of the shelves and dumped out the contents. Then, he collected the items that he needed for his protection potion and added them to the jar one by one. As he poured some yellow paint into the jar, he told Leah, “this is happiness, so that you can always feel happy.” He added red paint to represent fifteen hearts, “in case you ever need a new heart, you’ll have fifteen extra ones” he said. He added bubbles so that Leah could have the ability to breathe underwater, glitter to represent extra lives, and finally, sand for safety. He gave his potion to Leah and told her that he wanted her to always keep it on her desk so he knew she would be protected when he could no longer come to DAP.

For Leah, Ben’s potion illustrated Ben’s healing process. Through play therapy, child clients learn how to work through their trauma by using toys to represent their reality. Ben’s protection potion signified the trust that he had developed with Leah. And this trust is key—healthy attachment to a supportive adult is an important step in a child’s healing from domestic abuse. Therapists work to create that relationship with their clients and then help them transfer that relationship to an adult in the child’s life other than themselves. Ben didn’t add anything to his potion to symbolize it, but his potion was a true sign of the growth and healing he achieved through DAP.

At the end of their session, Leah told Ben that he would always be in her heart, and that his potion would always stay on that special spot on her desk. Today, the mason jar and its contents do continue to sit on Leah’s desk, protecting her from harm.

July 2015


Executive Director Sarah Clyne Celebrates 6 Months at DAP

DAP’s Executive Director Sarah Clyne shares: “We are well positioned to continue to broaden and strengthen our innovative programs through strategic partnerships and our proactive response to community need, as we have since our founding in 1979. “

In case you missed the news, DAP has added a new Executive Director to our ranks! At the beginning of 2015 Sarah Clyne became the third executive director in DAP’s history. Sarah comes to us from Joyce Preschool where she served as Executive Director for four years. She is also a member of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Cradle-to-K cabinet, which works to eliminate disparities for children in the City of Minneapolis from before birth until three years of age. Sarah has a strong background in education and working with children in the K-12 public schools, and she brings this passion with her to DAP.

Sarah brings to DAP the leadership to continue and grow our programs, as well as some fresh ideas going forward. Throughout her time as Executive Director, Sarah hopes to elevate the unique work that we do here at DAP by creating relationships and collaborating with other similar organizations. By partnering with other organizations, we will be able to fill gaps in the resources available to our clients and continue to strengthen and improve all of our services. Some of Sarah’s specific short-term goals include growing our case management services, building upon the culturally specific groups we can offer, and adding services for children ages 0-3 to our youth services program. By continuing to draw attention to domestic violence, DAP can do what it has done for the past 36 years: drive transformation of individuals and communities and create environments free of domestic abuse.

“I was attracted to DAP’s unique holistic approach – that we have therapy for everyone in the family. When you think about the cycles of violence, it’s really important to address the needs of everyone who is affected, and DAP does that. I wanted to be part of an organization that looks at abuse from a unique perspective and helps the whole family heal.”

July 2015



Your Support Made the Difference!


July 2015




Save the Date



Help DAP Transform Families!

Join us in honoring the victims of domestic abuse and supporting those working to end it. Attend DAP’s Annual Fundraising Luncheon on Tuesday, October 13th.


 Be a Table Captain!

DAP is still looking for Table Captains for our luncheon fundraiser. Table Captains invite their circle of friends, colleagues, and family to fill their table of ten. Without captains, DAP could not make its fundraising goal each year. If you are able to support DAP in this very meaningful way, please contact Anna Zaros at azaros@mndap.org right away.

Meet Our New Women’s Program Intern!

BeverlyBeverly originally started at DAP as an Advocate while she was interning with us during her undergraduate studies. She is now working with our Women’s Program while she works towards a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from St. Mary’s University. Throughout her time here, Beverly hopes to gain experience and develop skills that will help her grow as a therapist.

“I believe in the work that DAP is doing because I saw the need for healing through the women’s eyes that I advocated for. I also understand the need for the men whom I saw in court to have a place to receive help for dealing with their behaviors and learn ways to address these behaviors.”

Welcome to DAP, Yoel!

Welcome, Yoel!Yoel is currently pursuing his Masters Degree in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. He is excited to learn about domestic violence from a clinical context and hopes to gain perspective on how culture plays a role in domestic violence. Throughout his time as a Men’s and Children’s Program intern with Domestic Abuse Project, Yoel wants to understand domestic violence from a U.S. perspective and hopes to implement awareness in the immigrant communities of the Twin Cities.

“As a Masters of Social Work student focusing on Clinical and Community Practice, I want to understand the deeper impacts that domestic violence has on society.”

Welcome to DAP, Yoel!

June 2015

Get the Latest E-news from DAP!

Our e-newsletters are an easy way to keep up with all the innovative work that’s happening at DAP.  The e-newsletters are sent out every other month in a brief email. They provide in-depth reports about our programs, and are a great way to find out about upcoming events. Of course, you can rest assured that DAP will not share or sell your contact information.

E-news from DAP July 2015
E-news from DAP October 2014
E-news from DAP August 2014
E-news from DAP June 2014
E-news from DAP April 2014
E-news from DAP March 2014
E-news from DAP February 2014

Join our Email List!