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Letter: Violence doesn't stop for viruses

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Coiya Tompkins, CVIC President and CEO.jpg
Coiya Tompkins

Becky Mindeman, Senior Vice President of Retail Banking, Gate City Bank.png
Becky Mindeman

Several years ago, when the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) and its trusted community partners established a vision to eradicate violence in Grand Forks County, we knew it would be a challenge. We also knew it was possible — with the right level of commitment and teamwork.

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Grand Forks is no stranger to collaboration. It’s a skill we’ve honed through decades of flooding, periods of economic strife and other challenges. It’s part of our culture; we don’t think twice about doing what’s best for neighbors, even ones we’ve never met. It’s part of what makes Grand Forks County special.

Never has this truth been more apparent. Yet, even as we respond to an unfathomable pandemic, violence remains ever present. But, like COVID-19, violence won’t have the final say.

With a bold, comprehensive and nationally recognized model, CVIC disrupts cultural norms to end violence in our community. Through an alliance of collaborative community partners and donors, we remain committed to our vision. Nothing — not even a pandemic — can stop it.

Unfortunately, economic stress and social isolation are inextricably linked to increases in domestic violence. Social isolation and fear are often used by abusers to manipulate and control their victims. So, while social distancing and quarantining are understandably meant to keep people safe, for many, COVID-19 has disintegrated their safety nets and put them at risk. The longer we’re asked to social distance and stay home, the more likely it is for violence to escalate.

When every other place of refuge appears to be inaccessible to victims, CVIC and its partners do our best to step in and help. Our 24/7 crisis line answers calls, and our helpful staff members work tirelessly to provide safety planning and emergency shelter, as well as advocacy and education via phone, video conferencing and online support networks.

Additionally, a dedicated group of professionals in law enforcement, health care, education and the legal system is intent on keeping our communities safe for our most vulnerable residents. Several donors and other advocates are also stepping in to offer support. They’re not wavering either, despite the challenges this pandemic has posed.

One of the key ways we’ve been able to impact the health and safety of our community is through partnerships with area businesses and donors. These partnerships are exemplified through Green Dot, a bystander intervention program that CVIC rolled out in fall 2019. It was introduced with the help of Gate City Bank, which contributed significant funding and volunteers. Aiming to stop violence before it begins, Green Dot represents the use of a behavior, word, choice or attitude that promotes safety for everyone and communicates intolerance for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and child abuse.

Gate City Bank team members, along with employees from Altru Health System and other partners, participated in a six-hour training course to help identify signs of violence and create opportunities to keep our friends and neighbors safe.

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Because violence can often be predictable, it can be preventable. Check in on those you might be concerned about. Watch for indicators of increasing stress in the home. Be on alert for signs of physical, verbal or emotional abuse. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to call law enforcement or CVIC’s crisis line (701-746-8900) if you’re concerned for someone’s safety.

We all play a role in maintaining a safe and vibrant community. A team-oriented approach has been key to protecting our communities throughout the past 40 years, and it will be vital to our success moving forward.

Tenacity and teamwork can trump any challenge. We remain focused and fearless. A safer, violence-free tomorrow is possible. We’ve got this — together.

Coiya Tompkins is president/CEO of Community Violence Intervention Center. Becky Mindeman is senior vice president of retail banking at Gate City Bank.

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