PAVSA’s SMART program paving the way for future generations

Trees of Hope: PAVSA changing frameworks for future generations

PAVSA has been changing the lives of people nationwide. Their SMART program is an example of how community makes a world of difference.

Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault, or PAVSA, is a nonprofit rape crisis center that helps to aid victims, survivors and second hand survivors of sexual assault. They first opened their doors in 1975 when a small group of women were determined to combat the issue of sexual assault in the greater Duluth community.

Since then, the non-profit has been making history for not only Duluth or even Minnesota but nationwide.

The development of their SMART team is one of many examples of their work being replicated by communities around the country.

SMART stands for Sexual Assault Multi-Disciplinary Action Response. The members of this team involves justice partners, medical professionals, advocates, UMD staff and other community partners to come together to create a holistic response for victims of sexual assault. Nate Stumme is the head of the Criminal Division for the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, he says “PAVSA is critical for our community.”

Stumme says “the SMART team typically meets once a month to update each other on what staff changes on emerging issues, on trainings, anything that’s of mutual concern for all of us who are in this work to improve the response to folks who have been sexually assaulted.” He says the introduction of this team in 2002 has tremendously improved the way that sexual assault is handled in our community.

The Duluth Police say that that since the development of the SMART team it has changed the way they handle sexual assault.

In a statement, officials with DPD say:

The Duluth Police Department is a long-standing member of the SMART and this collaboration has led to a number of ways to support victim-survivors of sexual assault. DPD has two PAVSA advocates embedded at the police department. This allows for warm hand-offs from investigators to advocates and vice versa. It makes it easier for advocates to accompany victim-survivors for interviews if they choose to have an advocate with them. We have also set up a “soft interview” room so that there is a welcoming space at DPD for advocates, investigators, and victim-survivors to meet. Pictures attached.

Through our work on the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, and in compliance with statewide mandates, DPD sends all unrestricted kits to the MN BCA for testing within 60 days, and these kits are tracked through a statewide database that victim-survivors can check to see their kit’s status.

Also, PAVSA advocates participate in training DPD’s new recruits on their services and DPD Investigators participate in training new PAVSA advocates on their role in responding to sexual assault.

Other community partners, like UMD also say that PAVSA has paved the way for how they operate and handle sexual assaults’. Susana Pelayo-Woodward is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at UMD. She says something many people forget is that PAVSA is a resources for not only victims and survivors of sexual violence but also for second-hand survivors. A second-hand survivor is someone who is close to someone who has been sexually assaulted, “because sexual assault can happen to anyone,” she said.

Mary Faulkner is the Criminal Justice Service Coordinator and the organizer of the SMART team meetings. She adds how important it is to everyone involved. “We like to work with Safe Haven, AICHO and CASDA, as well as life House and First Witness. So we try to bring everyone to the table so that way victim survivors get as holistic a response as we can put together.”

PAVSA has many resources and can be reached 24-hours a day and 7-days a week. Their 24-hour crisis line phone number is 218-726-193.

You can donate to the non-profit anytime on PAVSA’s website.