MAPLE GROVE, Minnesota — COVID-19 has engrained the word "pandemic" in our minds.
But there's a more sinister pandemic that can't be eradicated with a vaccine; it takes action. It's called domestic abuse.
"We got a really quick education on what domestic abuse is and how pervasive and insidious it is in our community and in our country."
Last May, Sara Silva learned her cousin, Maria Pew, died in a horrific act of domestic abuse.
Adding to that heartbreak, "Her family didn't even know, real honestly about the signs of domestic abuse," said Lissa Weimelt, Maria's mother.
Now Silva and Weimelt are working to ensure all women have resources to get help.
"We're on a mission. We're small, we're scrappy, we're just like Maria," laughed Weimelt.
Through their nonprofit, Maria's Voice, Silva and Weimelt are launching a pledge network.
They're working with empowered partners, both businesses and individuals, to teach people how to help.
"We have this amazing platform to help other people understand: What is domestic abuse? What are the signs of it? What are the underlying causes of it?" said Weimelt.
Most importantly, Maria's voice is looking for a vow. "I'm willing to step up. I'm willing to help, I'm willing to say something. I'm willing to take action," emphasized Weimelt.
Spavia Day Spa in Maple Grove is the first business ready to take the pledge on February 13th.
Owner, Cristina Nolte, is making a commitment to train employees each year on the signs of domestic abuse and how to help.
"I do love the connection with Spavia that, you know, they really have a unique opportunity where, you know, it's just the type of work where somebody might open up to them about something and we want to make sure that they are empowered to know how to respond to support that person," said Silva.
"What I love about Cristina is that she is willing to say, 'You know, I don’t know exactly what this is going to look like. And I don’t know all the answers about how I’m going to respond about domestic abuse, but I’m willing to start this journey and I’m willing to learn,'" Silva continued.
The mission of Maria's Voice boils down to three things: to save lives, to change lives and heal lives.
"We don't want Maria's end to be the end of anyone else's story," said Weimelt.
On the 13th, you can also take the pledge. There will be a socially distanced celebration outside Spavia in Maple Grove where you can make your personal commitment.
- Head to Wahlburgers for happy hour, dinner, or curbside for Maria Monday, February 8th 3 pm to 7pm. Up to 20% of proceeds from this Fundfare will go directly to Maria’s Voice.
- Spavia and its vendors organized a sweepstakes filled with donated prizes to help raise funds for Maria’s Voice. The drawing is set for February 13, 2021.
Maria's Voice is working to secure a safe place for a woman or a domestic partner to be able to learn about the signs of domestic abuse and where to go for help. One idea they're working on is an employee portal for businesses.
"Similar to here’s how your health insurance works. Here’s where you can reach out to find an attorney, here’s where you can get you know substance abuse help. This is just another area where a person can go safely at their home, at their place of work, to get educated and to reach out should they need help," said Weimelt.
Another endeavor is helping those who are first on the scene of a domestic abuse call.
"First responders are impacted by domestic abuse and we want to find ways to level the playing field for first responders, and to also provide them support," said Silva.
Silva and Weimelt are passionate about helping police and EMS workers so they can be affective at their jobs and continue to work in supporting survivors.
They credit the Maple Grove Police Department for all of their initiatives and help after Pew's death.
"I mean, they really care about seeing a change in domestic abuse in their city,
Are you or someone you know in danger of domestic violence?
There are resources immediately available to help keep you safe:
In Minnesota, call Cornerstone’s Day One Crisis Hotline at 1-866-223-1111.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Always call 911 if you are in immediate danger.