Dakota Hope Her Journey
MINOT – As more awareness is being brought to the issue of domestic violence, more programs are being built to help victims in those situations.
Karmen Hanson, facilitator of a new Dakota Hope Clinic program called Her Journey, described the program as a biblically based abuse recovery ministry service. Hanson said she became certified with Abuse, Recovery Ministry Services, a national organization based out of Hillsboro, Oregon.
“I was trained through Zoom to get certified,” said Hanson. “We’re the only ones in North Dakota that currently offer this program.”
The Her Journey program has been going on for about five months, starting with just a few clients who were already participants of Dakota Hope’s Earn While You Learn program.
“Just to get my feet wet I started meeting with clients that we already work with,” said Hanson. “Officially we started to the public since Festival of Trees in December. That’s when I got up on stage to the public and talked about it.”
The Her Journey program is a 15-week program where victims and survivors of domestic abuse meet once a week, each week looking at a different topic.
“It’s based on Psalm 23,” said Hanson. “We break down Psalm 23, and each week is dedicated to one of the verses in Psalm 23.”
Hanson has survived a domestic violence situation herself.
“If I wasn’t following these control tactics, I would beat myself up thinking I was not being a good enough wife,” said Hanson. “What I’ve learned with the Her Journey program is submission is not oppression. The Bible says wives submit to your husbands but it also says husbands love your wives. Abuse is not love.”
The curriculum covers different types of abuse, and participants can remain anonymous by attending through Zoom and keeping their camera off.
“If they aren’t able to make it to the times of my class I will refer them to the ARMS office,” said Hanson. “They usually have four to five different Zooms being led every day, Saturdays and Sundays included.”
Hanson currently has a group meeting at 11 a.m. on Mondays and 2 p.m. on Wednesday. She also has individual clients that she meets with throughout the week.
Anyone at any stage of domestic abuse can participate in Her Journey. Hanson said some participants are still in the abusive situation while others have been removed for years.
“When I was in it, seeing where I’m at now, independent, owning my own home, working full time, mothering my three boys by myself,” said Hanson. “I never thought any of that was possible. Being in it you’re told that you need that person, that you need to depend on that person, and they really do break you down in these relationships. So I love coming alongside these women, meeting them where they’re at, and being able to share my personal testimony.”
Hanson was eight months pregnant when the last assault happened from her abuser, where she was strangled and almost murdered.
“All of a sudden he was arrested, I was at DVCC, filling out a restraining order, I chose to move out,” said Hanson. “So I took my two boys and the baby I was pregnant with and I moved to my mom’s house. I really had to start over from scratch. I had to deal with the trauma of almost being murdered by my husband, and also having to learn why I chose a person like my abuser.”
Hanson said there were red flags throughout her relationship with her abuser.
“Did he strike me on our second date? Absolutely not,” said Hanson. “Abusers are very charming and love bomb you and are everything you could have ever dreamed of. They promise you the whole world, and then all of a sudden your world just gets smaller and smaller.”
Hanson took the 15 weeks of training for the program as a survivor and took nine more weeks of training to become certified to facilitate the training for victims and survivors. She said taking the training with others who have survived such abuse was helpful.
“When you are in a home where domestic violence is present, as the victim you often think of yourself as crazy, and you justify the behavior after a period of time just to be able to survive day to day,” said Hanson. “When you meet other people that have been through it, I have found that every survivor’s story is very very different. However, abusers are very textbook. They are very similar in their tactics and the way that they manipulate not only the members of their household, but also the members of their inner circle and church family, in the way that they can wear two masks.”
Hanson said domestic abuse intensifies with pregnancy, and 76% of women that walk into pregnancy care centers like Dakota Hope will have, are, or will experience domestic violence at some point in their life.
Hanson said she would like to see stricter laws for domestic abuse offenders, saying the law does not reflect the intensity of the crime as her abuser is currently out of prison on a plea deal.
“That’s the other thing about domestic violence in our country, why it’s so prevalent I feel is because a lot of times it is a slap on the wrist,” said Hanson. “If he would have strangled a complete stranger it would be attempted murder, but if it’s in your home it’s a domestic violence assault, and it can easily be plea dealt from a felony to a misdemeanor or even lesser charges.”
Hanson said if her abuser had kicked her in the stomach, the charge would have been for assault on both her and her baby Theodore whom she was pregnant with.
“I would love to get a law started in North Dakota called Teddy’s Law,” said Hanson. “It would be where if you strangle a pregnant woman, it’s an assault charge against both. That is my dream, but it’s on the back burner with this job and Her Journey and my boys. That would be down the road. Dakota Hope has said they would help me with that.”
One of the purposes of Her Journey is to let the victims of abuse know they are not alone.
“And most importantly to know that God is always with them and that He hates abuse,” said Hanson. “If you are being hurt or you are scared to go home or scared when your spouse comes home, that is not a normal way to live. There is healing and there is a way through the valley and past the shadows and into His light. God took my misery and He turned it into my ministry. I’m just so blessed.”
The Her Journey program has been growing though there has not been any advertising. Hanson has been working with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, and clients have heard about Her Journey through word-of-mouth. Hanson said women can be the abusers and men the victims. Though Her Journey is not designed to help male victims, the national ARMS program has services for men.
More information on the program can be found here. Hanson said individuals can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the program, or if they have questions.