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KELLY BREVIG COLUMN: The power of your vote, your voice

Sitting at Raphael's Bakery on a Saturday morning, enjoying the first sip of coffee as it hits my veins, I overhear a gentleman asking a friend, and "So are you voting next week or moving to Canada?"...

Sitting at Raphael's Bakery on a Saturday morning, enjoying the first sip of coffee as it hits my veins, I overhear a gentleman asking a friend, and "So are you voting next week or moving to Canada?"

Similar conversations have been overheard everywhere; a common sentiment is "I have no idea who to vote for, it feels hopeless." For myself, I was planning on my "non-vote" to be my vote this year. I have even been on a Facebook hiatus since May, not missing the political hype that has everyone all riled up. I have had many discussions since then, including with a friend who reminded me that women didn't always have the ability to vote and that voting is both a duty and a privilege. These conversations, combined with actual facts, made me decided that I must not remain silent.

Silence in life, while sometimes needed, can sometimes be mistaken for an ostrich with its head in the sand. That's me. This is exactly where I have been living this political season. Thankfully, I'm a student who thrives on last minute study and homework, and I am starting to feel pretty confident in my duty to vote. I have listened diligently to topics I am passionate about and can now see the connection to my personal vote. I still dislike politics, but it is in this arena that choices are made which will impact our region and state, let alone our country.

While filling in an oval seems to take front stage right now, I was also reminded that my ostrich moment happens across politics, cultures, economic status, genders and across any and all other demographics when it comes to sexual violence. It was so easy to avoid this election (up until now), and I guess I get how and why other people might have the same reaction when the subjects of child sexual abuse, rape, incest and even sex trafficking come up in conversation. I must admit, I have sand in my hair, grit in my teeth and some serious catching up to do on this election, but it must be done. On the topic of sexual violence, I encourage readers to check and see where their head is planted; is it in the sands of denial, the clouds of non-existence or in the heart of the issues? Are we avoiding conversations and people because talking about sexual violence is simply too tough?

I recently had the pleasure to attend a Trauma Informed Care conference in Bemidji, hosted by the Domestic Violence Courts, Leech Lake Indian Health Hospital and Sanford Health. The big take away I learned from this conference was the shift in thinking when meeting, talking, and working with victims of sexual violence and trauma. The question that often gets asked across all system providers and even friends, is "What is wrong with that person?" The real question that needs to be asked is, "What happened to them?"

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Everyone has a story. Our story defines the paths we are on and can dictate the choices we will make going forward. If we pre-judge someone based on choices they seem to have made, we must remember the bigger picture; something happened to them to get them where they are today. If we are ever to have an impact on our community we must be brave enough to ask the question and, more importantly, brave enough to hear the answer. It is by this action that victims will feel safety in coming forward. They will feel believed and supported and maybe for the first time ever, they will feel hope.

I have felt completely hopeless in this election, until now. I see now the power of my vote, of my voice, and that my silence cannot be tolerated. I was called out, gently but firmly, and now I better understand how to do my civic duty. I'm calling all my readers out, gently but also firmly, to make this paradigm shift in thinking the next time the urge to judge someone begins to erupt. Something has happened to them. Are we brave enough to pull our heads out of the sand and believe? Are we ready to support and care for each other? Are we ready to help?

Brevig is Program Supervisor for Support Within Reach. Reach her at (218) 444-9524 or (800) 708-2727.

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