Written By Emma Saxton
Jenell Feller has lived in International Falls for close to twenty five years. Jenell and her husband chose to live in International Falls because of the people. She thinks that the best people in the world live right here. Jenell is the executive director of Friends Against Abuse, an organization that serves victims of crime in Koochiching County and Lake of The Woods County. She does all of the administrative work such as writing grants and managing funding. She manages the staff, and together they do the programming and provide the services that make up Friends Against Abuse.
Friends Against Abuse is a private nonprofit classified as a 501-C3. They provide services to victims of crime, which is broken down into three categories. The first category is victims of domestic violence, which is the largest number of people they serve. In 2019 they served 250 victims of domestic violence. The second largest group they serve include victims of general crime. In our community this ends up mostly involving stalking and sexual harassment. In 2019 they served 119 people in this category. The third and most difficult category to serve is victims of sexual assault, and in 2019 that ended up being 18 people.
Friends Against Abuse also helps to pay for the training and recertification of the local SANE nurses, or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. They do a forensic exam on victims of sexual assault to obtain information that can be used in court. There are two SANE nurses in our community.
Another service Friends Against Abuse provides is supervised visitation. This allows kids to visit and spend time with their non-custodial parent. Oftentimes the parent may not have custody because they have very little experience as a parent, struggle with addiction, or have a history of abuse and neglect. Typically these visits are done in the Friends Against Abuse living room, but due to COVID-19 these visits are currently being done online.
You can reach Friends Against Abuse twenty four hours a day, seven days a week at any of their phone numbers. Outside of business hours there are phone advocates who will answer the phone. They can help anyone in crisis regardless of what the crisis is. Last year there were 224 calls to the crisis line, which ends up being approximately one call every business day. If someone is in an unsafe situation or they know of someone in an unsafe situation they can call the crisis line. The crisis line will give them resources based on their situation.
Another major program Friends Against Abuse provides is their podcast Gone. They recieve about 500 listeners a month. Since quarantine started all calls to the office have been reduced, and they suspect it is because victims, specifically of domestic violence, are being monitored at all times and cannot reach out to them. The podcast is the only area where their numbers have increased. Many organizations across the state that are similar to Friends Against Abuse have also seen a reduction of calls, although a few organizations have seen an increase in the number of calls.
If someone was having a mental health crisis they could call the crisis line, but Jenell recommends calling 211 which is the number that can help access the mobile crisis unit. The mobile crisis unit is specifically designed to help someone who is having a mental health crisis. You can call the crisis line at any time and they can provide that number and they will also provide additional resources if necessary. Sometimes someone just needs to talk out the issue. The way the crisis line responds is situational, and they will do whatever they can to help.
If someone is struggling with anxiety they can call the crisis line. If someone is just generally anxious, Jenell would offer suggestions such as exercise, reducing their caffeine intake, meditation, mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and using different breathing techniques. If the anxiety is causing panic attacks or anything extreme Jenell would recommend contacting a therapist or seeing your medical practitioner. Sometimes medication is needed to help reduce your anxiety.
Jenell thinks that many people may be experiencing decision fatigue right now, because COVID has turned decisions that would typically be inconsequential into major choices. A million more decisions need to be made just because of COVID, and it can become very stressful. Make sure to practice good self care, and see a professional if needed.
This is Jenell´s sixth year at Friends Against Abuse. To make it easier on the people working at Friends Against Abuse they have an office dog named Lucy. Jenell´s co-workers make sure to practice self-care and find joy wherever they can. Although she has a heavy job, there is a surprising amount of laughter and joy in their office.
24 Hour Crisis Line: 218-285-7220
24 Hour Crisis Line Toll Free: 1-888-344-3264
Help Line: 211