The Refuge Network

The Refuge Network,
because no one deserves to be abused.

The Refuge Network is a multi-community organization whose primary purpose is to provide supportive services for people who are currently involved or have been involved in an abusive relationship.  The Refuge Network believes that no one deserves to be abused and therefore seeks to bring an end to domestic violence.

Since 1986, The Refuge Network’s mission has been to help bring an end to domestic violence by providing supportive, non-judgmental services.  I had the honorable pleasure of touring a safe house that serves six counties in Central Minnesota. I was accompanied by the founder of the Refuge, Margaret Johnson. She is a dear friend of mine and when she told me about her history of creating a safe place for women and children, I jumped at the chance to partner up with her and go onsite to see what I can do for the Refuge and the women it serves.

I was warmly welcomed by a few of the women in charge of a shelter that was donated by a couple who could no longer care for the large acreage and multi-level home. The Refuge has turned an old farmhouse into a beautiful sanctuary. It was so peaceful, calm, and safe feeling. Nestled into the woods, I don’t think they could have chosen a more perfect place for women who are looking for a safe respite while still feeling like they’re  home. Guided throughout the tour, I was continuously surprised at how lovely it was. Even though this house has been surviving off of donations alone over the past three years, they had brand new furnishings, beautiful kitchen and dinning area, personal bedrooms equipped with large beds, dressers, bedding and televisions, large and very clean bathrooms, laundry room, kid’s craft and play room, a beautiful screened-in porch with a breathtaking view, tons of backyard space for kids to play and women to take a peaceful walk. Honestly, it was like stepping into my grandmother’s home. There was a yummy smell in the air from dinner being prepared, and the light sounds of children giggling and playing in the living room.

I kept wondering, how does a wonderful place like this survive off donations alone? The answer I kept hearing was, “We have incredible support from our neighbors and community members.” I was so moved by the amount of giving and support this shelter had. I sat down with the shelter coordinator and discussed how I can help The Refuge and the future women who will need their services. During my year I will be working on collecting donations that the shelter can use for their own expenses as well as providing the shelter with basic hygiene supplies like shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper and body wash. Those are very basic things but they are always in high demand. When a mother and her children have to leave their home in a hurry, they usually don’t take time to grab these types of items. I would like to make sure every woman who comes through the door has a goody bag of smell goods, and soapy delights. It isn’t much, but sometimes a nice, hot sudsy, bath can be the best way to relax and get your mind off of the stressors in your life.

One out of every 3 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. In the United States, a woman is more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped, or killed by an intimate partner, relative, acquaintance, or friend than any other type of assailant. Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten.
In Minnesota, statewide, over 132,000 women and children are assaulted each year, with many others unreported. Annually, over 4,800 women and 6,000 children and youth are provided emergency shelter in Minnesota.   

The Refuge Network serves Chisago, Isanti and Kanabec Counties in east central Minnesota. 24 Hour Toll Free Crisis Hotline at 1.800.338.SAFE (7233).

Advocates are available 24 hours a day.  All services are free and confidential.

You are not alone. You have the right to feel safe.
 You have the right to get help

Remember, if you know anyone that you suspect is being abused; let them know they have options and support. Although The Refuge is only located in Minnesota, there are many places just like The Refuge where you can seek help. Do not be afraid to reach out!

Abuse does not just happen to families who are poor, uneducated or non-religious like some people think... Abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere, from any type of living. Do not overlook the signs. The women in danger could be your sister, your mother, your best friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Abuse is not limited to physical attacks. Verbal and mental abuse can be just, if not more, damaging. Help a victim before it’s too late. I will personally continue to advocate and provide help for women and children who have encountered abuse.

As I left The Refuge I was reminded of the night I was crowed Miss International 2012. The song “I Was Here” by Beyonce was buzzing around in my head and in that moment I was reminded that I have the power to make a difference and leave my mark on the world by providing love, hope, and healing to those who are hurting, not just because I am Miss International, but because I have a passion and a mission. God gave me my life experiences so I could turn my pain into my purpose and I show him my gratitude by helping those in need.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves
the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

All my love,

Krista Wanous
Miss International 2012


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