PAVSA (Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault) was started in 1975 by a small group of dedicated women determined to combat the issue of sexual assault in the greater Duluth community. These women presented a grant to the Minnesota Law Enforcement Assistance Act to launch the rape crisis center. Unfortunately, the grant was denied due to the lack of reported assaults. In 1976, the women resubmitted the grant stating that the rate of reporting would rise if hospitals and police departments could be more victim-centered in their response. The grant was approved and PAVSA became a reality.
Over the past 36 years, PAVSA has continued to offer many support services to victims of sexual assault. The 24-hour crisis line can be answered by a trained advocate anytime, and advocates respond to sexual assault calls at the local hospitals night and day. Community volunteers and allies continue to support and empower our agency by serving on the PAVSA board of directors, becoming trained advocates for victims, and offering their time to support community awareness events. PAVSA also has many other opportunities to support victims including the “I Heart Consensual Sex party”, Take Back the Night, and the annual PAVSA Herstory Luncheon.
In the course of our history, PAVSA has also started many new programs designed to improve efforts to change the systems response to victims. Beginning in 2002, PAVSA gathered a team of local law enforcement officers, advocates, hospital personnel, and prosecutors to form SMART (Sexual Assault Multi-disciplinary Action Response Team). This team works to develop a victim-centered community response to sexual assault that is both multi-disciplinary and culturally competent. PAVSA also developed the SANE program (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) in 2007, which allows nurses specially trained in evidence collection and medical protocols to offer victims of sexual assault a higher quality of care. Also of significance is a safety and accountability audit regarding the systems response to Native women who report sexual assault in Duluth.
In partnership with our community, PAVSA will continue to support victims, educate the community, and advocate for social change until we see an end to sexual violence in our community.