The mission of Pearl Crisis Center is to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence through direct services, prevention, and community awareness. In 1996, Pearl Crisis Center (will refer to herein as Pearl) was established as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and for over 20 years has continually provided services to victims (and their children) of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since the organization’s inception, Pearl has become a Safe Home/Hotel/Motel program that provides immediate safe shelter to victims and their families. Pearl has collaborated with several system agencies on policy development and innovative programming to improve services to victims. For example, Pearl helped develop “victim centered” sexual assault protocols, a rural response protocol for battered women and children involved with child protective services, and most recently Officer Involved Domestic Violence protocols for law enforcement agencies within Mille Lacs County. From these endeavors, and similar collaborative efforts, the Mille Lacs County Family Violence Coordinating Council was developed and in 2016 Mille Lacs County developed and implemented its first Domestic Violence Specialty Court.
Pearl realizes one way to address violence against women is to be pro-active rather than re-active, therefore we developed innovative programming specific to youth. In 2005, Pearl created the Safe Dates program that allows advocates to provide the Safe Dates curriculum to local middle and high school students. Safe Dates is a nine-session curriculum that promotes healthy relationships and provides tools to prevent teen dating violence. Throughout the past 14 years, over 13,000 students participated in the Safe Dates Curriculum. Also in 2005, Pearl developed and continues to facilitate a teen-led task force called TADA (Teens Against Dating Abuse). TADA mirrors the principles of Safe Dates and currently holds membership of over 100 youth (ages 10-18) in Mille Lacs County. TADA has received statewide recognition and numerous awards due to its innovative approaches to reducing violence.
In 2007, Pearl addressed the unique needs of victims when trying to leave an abusive situation. Too often, they are unable to take their belongings with them so Pearl opened a thrift store to provide the necessary household and personal items for families in transition – free of charge and proceeds from store sales provide additional support to victims. Since its’ opening, Pearl has collaborated with local jobs and training programs to offer the store as a safe and secure on-the-job training site for victims who may have not been allowed to work outside the home. It also helps victims develop community relationships and acquire necessary work skills to gain self-sufficiency and build self-empowerment. Lastly, over the past few years Pearl began to recognize and respond to the complex needs of victims seeking safety from a perpetrator who is a police officer, thus being the first Office of Justice Programs Minnesota grantee agency to receive funding to address this hidden epidemic through multidisciplinary efforts and protocol development.