Archive | OPINION

What we’ve learned: Highlights from Intimate Partner Homicide Report

Posted on 11 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Now in its 30th edition, the Femicide Report has a new name: the Intimate Partner Homicide Report coinciding with the renaming of the Minnesota Battered Women’s Coalition to Violence Free Minnesota.
Over three decades, at least 685 people were killed due to relationship abuse. The youngest victim was just 22 weeks old; the oldest was 88. Homicide victims include not only the victim of abuse, but people who tried to intervene to stop the violence: bystanders, first-responders, neighbors, friends, family, and children. Such victims represent the ripple effect of domestic violence and how it permeates communities. In sharing their stories, we chip away at the discredited notion that domestic violence is a private, family affair to invite public discourse and action towards a violence free future.

Power and control
While public perception of relationship abuse often emphasizes long histories of physical violence and noticeable injuries, relationship abuse is about a larger pattern of power and control.
People who abuse feel entitled to use physical, sexual, financial, and emotional tactics to control, isolate, and trap their partners. Relationships that have not previously involved physical abuse may involve long histories of humiliation, intimidation, and gaslighting that can culminate in an act of homicide. These tactics are used to instill fear in victims, increase compliance, and cause psychological injury. Victims who experience such abuse may gradually lose access to support services, become isolated from social networks, start to blame themselves, and believe they do not deserve better.
Abuse can look different in every relationship but always ties back to the same motivation: to gain and maintain power and control. Abusive partners may become horrifyingly creative in their tactics, including knowingly transmitting infections to victims and endangering their health; threatening or injuring their children and loved ones; responding with severe violence to rejection; monitoring their location and movements; controlling their access to healthy relationships; and undermining their mental and chemical health by sabotaging their recovery efforts. Many victims who have experienced pervasive levels of abuse report feeling helpless, confused, “crazy,” and defeated due to a gradual breakdown of their sense of self.

Children affected
Intimate partner homicides have a devastating impact on children, as well. CDC-Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of the impact of childhood experiences on life-long health and well-being. The ACE research demonstrates that exposure to domestic violence can increase risk for physical, mental health, and substance abuse conditions. The impact of chronic domestic violence exposure in childhood was found to have long-term effects throughout the life span.
Impacts on minor children are seen throughout our 30 years of data: children who witnessed the homicide of a parent (22% of cases); children who were killed alongside their parent (16 children); and children killed as a method of coercion by an abusive partner (17 children). This data does not include the number of adult children who may have witnessed or were murdered alongside their parent. In many of the cases involving minor children, the need for protection was raised in a court proceeding or made known to another professional.
While some children are injured or killed as part of the relationship abuse against their parent, many more children are harmed by witnessing the violence. Over three decades, 151 cases of domestic violence homicide occurred with a child witnessing the murder. While experiencing and witnessing relationship violence negatively impacts children, research shows that children are most resilient and have the best emotional recovery when there is a strong relationship with the non-abusive parent. Safety of children is directly linked to the safety and support of victim-parents.
Selection of report above. Read the full report at

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Letters to the Editor Feb 2020

Posted on 11 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

We are not believed about our own lives
Dear Editor:
Thank you for interviewing Leigh Ann Block and, presumably, believing her story. Unlike the lawyers, judges and social workers who cared more about giving the violent man who would murder her daughter “a chance to demonstrate good behavior.”
I could have lost either or both of my children to their abusive father many years ago. But they and I – were luckier than Mikayla and Leigh.
I had decent lawyers for my divorce, unlike Martha Eaves of SMRLS. But I knew that most people, and most professionals involved in divorce and custody cases, think women trying to protect our children from violent men in their lives are making up stories to get revenge. That’s the baseline wrong done to Leigh, Mikayla and so many other victims of abuse, most of which is perpetrated by men.
We are not believed about our own lives and our children’s lives, and the violent men in our lives. My children’s father was a – now retired – Presbterian minister. You think most people believed me about his violence, his refusal to recognize other people’s rights or boundaries, his resentment at “having to be a good boy”?
My children are grown, and caring, nonviolent, great people, We’ve survived. But part of me will feel safer when that man is dead.
Thank you, Leigh Ann, for your love and courage to keep going after being abused by that monster, suffering your little daughter’s murder, and having your warnings ignored by people who should have paid attention.
It’s a disease of “professionals,” of “experts,” to think they know better than the people who come to them for help. Doctors, lawyers, cops, judges, social workers, even some teachers and mental health workers have this disease. People die every day because of this disease of arrogance, distrust of women, racism.
Thank you again for writing this. I’m sure you’ll receive a lot of letters like mine.
Helen Hunter
St Paul

Impactful series in wake of triple murder by father
Dear Editor:
Just finished reading your two stories about domestic abuse in the most recent edition of the Monitor. Very impactful writing, especially with the tragedy today in south Minneapolis, demonstrating the worst outcome of an abusive relationship.
May I offer a correction of the name for one of the resources for those in an abusive relationship? You referred to the “Alexander House”; I believe you meant the Alexandra House in Blaine.
Joel Carter

What about men who are abused by women?
Dear Editor:
I received the newspaper today, and read the article about Leigh Ann Block and her late daughter Mikayla. The story is at once heartbreaking and frustrating, and I thank you for writing it. I admire Ms. Block’s activism, and I wish she could find more peace of mind, though given what happened, that may not be possible.
I wanted to bring up one sentence from the article, that I’m kind of stuck on. It’s on page 2, column 3, 4th full paragraph: “Like many men, he didn’t really start showing his abusive side until…..”
I feel like doing a slight rewrite on the first phrase of that sentence. Maybe something like “Like many eventual abusers….” This phrase takes gender out of it (since women are abusers, too, though not nearly as often as men) and it also shrinks the pool from all males to just abusive people. As written, that sentence struck me as a little unfair to my gender.
But I’m nitpicking, and I’ll stop now. Thanks again for the article – it was an engrossing account of a very sad situation.
Have a Happy New Year,
Mark Brandt

Editor’s note: While it is definitely true both males and females can be abusive, the majority of abusers are men, and the majority of violent abusers are men. Many do argue that while both genders employ power and control dynamics, it is significantly worse for women. This isn’t something everyone agrees on, though, and is currently a hot discussion topic with the recent renaming of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women to Violence Free Minnesota.
I hope that the graphic that accompanied the article you’re referring to helped put things in perspective by showing the exact breakdown of murders by father/mother/etc. according to the Center for Judicial Excellence.

Impactful series in wake of triple murder by father
Dear Editor:
Just finished reading your two stories about domestic abuse in the most recent edition of the Messenger. Very impactful writing, especially with the tragedy today in south Minneapolis, demonstrating the worst outcome of an abusive relationship.
May I offer a correction of the name for one of the resources for those in an abusive relationship? You referred to the “Alexander House”; I believe you meant the Alexandra House in Blaine.
Joel Carter

What happened to Parkway Motor totem pole?
Dear Editor:
There is a post on NextDoor that is asking what happened to the totem pole that was originally part of the Parkway Motor Hotel at Hiawatha Ave. and Nawadaha Blvd. It was removed from its original place during the Hiawatha Ave. reconstruction, then sat on its side by the old Bridgeman’s/SomTaste building for awhile. Do you have any knowledge of where it went to? Neighbors are dying to know!
Thanks for any info you can share!
Wade Johnson
Hiawatha nieghborhood


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Meet Our Staff: Asking questions, talking about interests and events

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


A little bit about me… I grew up on a cattle and crop farm in north central Iowa. With no brothers, every day was “Take Your Daughter to Work” day. I have vivid dreams every fall about helping with the harvest.
My father and I both loved horses and ranch rodeos, and my earliest career choice was to work on a ranch. That career never happened, but it’s still fun to think about.
It’s striking to realize that after many generations of farmers on both branches of the family tree, no one in my extended family farms today.
Our farm was in a rural area known as Heathen Valley. We had many friends and many youthful adventures in our rural neighborhood, which was near a landmark still known as Four Corners. It got its name because with ponds and the east fork of the Iowa River, you could fish at all four corners.
My sisters and I attended a K-12 school, where my graduating class was the second-largest in school history. There were 34 of us, and almost two dozen of us classmates began kindergarten together.
I always liked to read and write, so journalism was an extension of that. My newspaper career began at age 12, as a writer for small weekly newspapers. I worked with some wonderful editors and correspondents during that time. School news and sports were my first “beats,” but I also covered local meetings.
One paper let me hang out in the back shop where the paper was produced. The young people who helped were known as “printers’ devils.” Many of us get to revisit those days at the Minnesota State Fair Newspaper Museum, housed in the 4-H Building.
After high school, I graduated from Iowa State University. My career path never strayed from community journalism, with papers in Iowa and Minnesota. I moved to the Twin Cities in 1983 and live in Macalester-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul, after many years in Merriam Park.
Many, many people and stories come to mind when looking back on my career. One of the strangest was in the early 1980s, when a rural Minnesota high school bought a portable breath tester to use with the junior-senior prom attendees. The story was picked up by the wire services. Today we’d say it went viral.
Another story a few of you might remember is the all-night public hearing on I-35W expansion in south Minneapolis, back in 1992. It may have been the last public hearing on such a topic with that format. To those who stayed all night with me, I salute you.
My current work has me editing Access Press, a monthly paper for people with disabilities, and writing for community papers including the Villager, Monitor and Messenger. I do some writing for Food Service News and other trade publications.
My work is largely focused on St. Paul city and county government, land use and regulatory issues, although I do venture across the river to do Minneapolis stories from time to time. I also write and research St. Paul history.
A few random thoughts on my work life:
*Issues take time to be resolved. I began writing about what became the Green Line light rail in 1983. I also remember when the Blue Line was Hennepin County’s third transit priority. It was the first light rail line built in the Twin Cities.
*The second thought is that so many things have changed over my years of writing. How communities organize, who is involved, what form outreach takes, which issues are important … things in some ways look very different than they used to.
Journalism itself has really changed. I remember listening to the wire services machines humming and clicking in the background of a newsroom or hearing the bells for major news. I remember when getting a fax machine for a newsroom was a big, big deal.
But what hasn’t changed is the need to get the news out, deadline after deadline. And for me, it continues to be a great general education. You learn something new every day.

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Too Much Coffee: Shovel the sidewalks, say hi to your newspaper carriers

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Let’s give a hand to our newspaper carriers, those wonderful people who are out delivering the news before many of us wake up. As winter sets in, give your newspaper and mail carriers a hand. Keep sidewalks shoveled and ice-free, and make sure there’s a clear pathway to your front door. Some folks even clear a house-to-house trail on their lawns so the carriers don’t have to go up and down steps. It could speed delivery, just a tiny bit.
Nearly 30 million U.S. households still get a newspaper delivered to their doorstep, according to 2018 data from the Pew Research Center.
The job hazards are what you’d expect – dogs, sprinklers, rain, snow and sleet.
The carriers may not be what you’d expect. Henry Huggins, the beloved fictional character created by Beverly Cleary, epitomized a time when kids filled the majority of newspaper routes. Today, most carriers do the routes as a second job. This side hustle pays for vacations, cabins, and home repairs. For some, it’s a way to stay active and fit when they retire.
Delivering newspapers has been a crash course in business training for many famous folks, including Walt Disney, Warren Buffett, Kathy Ireland, former Vice President Joe Biden, actor Tom Cruise, and director David Lynch.
Our newspaper carriers aren’t TMC Publication staff members, but employees of Fresh Heir, a small business that delivers for a variety of neighborhood newspapers in the Twin Cities. They earn their wage based on the number of papers and routes they deliver. Carriers can earn $13-15 an hour and their hours are flexible. To accommodate those without cars, the Fresh Heir van drops bundles off at street corners. Carriers can then fill their bags multiple times over the next hour or so without them becoming too heavy, and then work through way up and down the street. A 12-inch stack of newspapers weighs about 35 pounds, so a carrier is always balancing how much they can carry versus the length of the route. In poor weather, the carrier places the newspapers in polybags (that can be recycled by readers), and in better weather they roll them with a rubber band to make it easier to throw.
It takes some muscle and finesse to deliver a paper to your front steps. I can tell you that my arm got pretty tired by the end of my routes this summer, and some papers didn’t make it exactly where I was aiming. My apologies for those of you that found your papers closer to the bushes then your front steps.
Some of our carriers have been delivering the same routes for years, and although I tried to talk them into being interviewed for this column, they all declined, leaving the spotlight for others. These carriers regularly walking our neighborhood streets help keep them safe. And they feel connected to the homes they’re serving.
Every once in awhile a newspaper carrier makes it into the newspapers they’re delivering. Here are a few stories compiled by the News Media Alliance:
• In 2018, Howard Shelton was shot on the job. He is a carrier for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The 60-year-old was delivering to customers on his route when his car was stolen and he was shot. His customers set up a GoFundMe to help with his expenses while out of work. It was the first time in 20 years Shelton missed work.
• In 2017, Mari Schlegel was delivering the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star when she noticed a home on her route was on fire. After calling 911, Schlegel knocked on the door of the house to wake up the resident, Debra Sherard, and alert her to the fire. Thanks to Schlegel’s quick thinking, Sherard and her pets escaped the house unharmed, and the fire department was able to put out the fire before it spread further through the house.
• When Debbie Brazell, a newspaper delivery woman for Columbia, South Carolina’s The State newspaper, noticed that papers were piling up in the paper box of a long-time subscriber on her route, she thought something had to be wrong. And she was right. The 93-year-old resident had fallen and couldn’t get up, so Brazell called 911. The woman, it turned out, had fallen and blacked out on Friday, and was not found until Brazell arrived on Monday.
Feel free to leave a tip for your carrier during these tough winter months (it’s customary to tip a carrier $5 to $10 per month, and up to $25 during the holidays), and I’m sure they’d also appreciate a smile and a thank you.
Newspaper carriers don’t just deliver papers; they also deliver democracy door to door, according to Lindsey Loving, a spokesperson for News Media Alliance. “Without newspaper carriers, many people wouldn’t receive the news that keeps them informed about their communities,” she said. “Both the news and newspaper carriers play critical roles in preserving our democratic society, and we couldn’t be more grateful to them.”
I completely agree.

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Letter to the Editor December 2019

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Feeling charitable? There are many ways to help

Dear Editor:
Almost 10% of our global population is living in extreme poverty, on less than $2 a day. 3 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets, and 1 billion don’t have access to clean water. The Borgen Project is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that is addressing global poverty by working with U.S. leaders in securing support for poverty-reducing legislation. I’m writing this today as a volunteer and advocate who strongly believes in this cause and hopes that others who read this will feel the same and do something.
We all know that there are many nonprofits working directly to end global poverty, and these efforts should not go unnoticed. The Borgen Project is doing something different, though, and that’s advocating for federal dollars to go towards these endeavors.
$5000 towards an aid agency could build one freshwater well that provides 250 people with clean drinking water, but $2000 is all it takes to meet directly with 70 congressional offices in order to build support for a bill that would provide 100 million people with access to clean drinking water (Water for the World Act). Basically, using the same amount of money (or less) that an aid agency needs to assist hundreds, The Borgen Project can help to shape policy that affects millions.
All it takes is our voices, telling our leaders what should be done, to make some change in our world.
Find out more at There are internship and volunteer opportunities, plus much more information regarding global poverty and legislation ways we can address it.
Thank you for your time,
Ashley Strand

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Longfellow Directory: Use to support local merchants

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

View from the Messenger

Denis Woulfe has been working for the Monitor and Messenger since her was a college intern from Hamline.


Over the years the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger has had the good fortune to have a great working relationship with the Longfellow Business Association (LBA). Since the early days of the Messenger in the 1980s, the Messenger has relied on the LBA to get information on things going on in the Longfellow community, and also to tap the mindset of business owners in our community. Many of the stories that the Messenger has covered over the years have started with ideas that have come out of the LBA and/or LBA sponsored meetings in our community.
I currently have the pleasure of serving on the Board of the LBA along with other business reps and business owners from Longfellow who are devoted not only to improving the business climate in Longfellow but also the quality of life for residents and businesses alike in the community.
Without a doubt, however, one of the most important byproducts of the relationship between the Messenger and the LBA is the Longfellow Business Directory, which is published every two years as a joint effort between the LBA and the Messenger.
The Longfellow Business Directory has had a history in the Longfellow community going back to the 1990s. It was started with the assistance of City of Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds to help foster better communication within the business community. When grant monies dried up, however, the Longfellow Business Association (LBA), recognizing the importance of the Directory, approached the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger about taking on the project despite the absence of an outside funding source.
While prior Directories had contained some advertising, the question posed to the Messenger was whether there would be enough support in the Longfellow business community through advertising to cover the costs of the printing and distribution of the Directory to the Longfellow community.
The first Longfellow Business and Community Directory published in cooperation with the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger was produced in 2004 and the cover was a vibrant mosaic of the Lake Street Bridge in full autumn bloom. The text on the cover of the book described it as “Your guide for everything you need to work and live in the Longfellow area of Minneapolis.” Since then the Longfellow Business Directory has been published every two years, being released with the December issue of the Messenger.
This brings me to today. I’m pleased to announce that Longfellow readers of the Messenger will find a copy of the Longfellow Business Directory delivered along with their December issue of the Messenger this week. It’s a hefty book, chockful of important information. It lists the Longfellow businesses that provide the goods and services that our kind readers use on a weekly basis. I would encourage you to hang on to the Directory and use it as a guide to find local merchants and “Buy Local” when you need to restock your refrigerator, service your automobile, or perhaps find those special gifts for your friends and family during the year. Your local merchants need your support and work hard to earn your respect and patronage.
If you would like additional copies of the Longfellow Business Directory, or perhaps live outside the boundaries of the Longfellow community, additional copies can be found at the Longfellow Community Council at 2727 26th Av. S. You will also find copies of the Directory at many of the Longfellow businesses which already carry copies of the Messenger.
And if you own a business in Longfellow and are not currently a member of the LBA, I would strongly encourage you to check out the LBA and consider becoming a member and getting involved in the organization and in your neighborhood.
If you have questions about the Directory, don’t hesitate to email me at


Click here to view the 2020 Business Directory.

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Letters to the Editor November 2019

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Thanks, students

Dear Editor:
I want to thank the high school students that participated in the world climate strike. There are many in my age group (over 60) that may have concerns regarding climate but clearly not strongly represented in the strike. thanks for the courage, sacrificing homecoming and being a voice for change.
A thank you to the school district for respecting the students right to strike. your measured are is appreciated.
Dave Rompa

Let’s empower women

Dear Editor:
I am writing to give another perspective to the one presented in the column, Too Much Coffee. In the article, Let’s start believing women and children, Tesha Christensen writes, “The sad thing is, being smart and educated, kind and empathic, a good mom and a good wife—none of that prevents you from being abused. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and there is no safeguard from it, even though we wish there was.” I believe that it is just this kind of thinking, “there is no safeguard from it” actually contributes to women not protecting themselves – which I believe is possible.
There are many, many signs – red flags – (and they are called that for a reason) that alert women that men are controlling and abusive. There are folks of either or any gender that can be unsafe partners. The problem is that while girls and women are most often being socialized to believe that they should be “a good mom and a good wife,” they are not socialized around how to take care of and protect themselves. The belief that it is of primary concern for girls and women to be in a relationship, to be moms, to be wives, is in and of itself a dire premise.
Thankfully, we are moving in a direction that gives women many more options than in the past, and not being partnered is a viable alternative to being a good wife and mother if you are not certain you know how to take care of yourself and what to look for in a potential partner.
We need to stop telling women that there’s no way to protect themselves, because there are lots of ways. In his book, “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence,” Gavin De Becker states, “Every day people engaged in the clever defiance of their own intuition become, in midthought, victims of violence and accidents. So when we wonder why we are victims so often, the answer is clear: It is because we are so good at it (p. 30).” I recommend that women every where read this book.
Like most women, I was socialized to be kind and giving, and ended up married at a young age to someone who didn’t have the relationship skills that I was hoping for (and neither did I). I sought out a divorce, and instead of focusing on this relationship, I began accessing my own power. It took a lot of work (and time) for me to deconstruct the many messages from my culture and my family, and of the religion I was raised to believe in. I started to believe that I could support and care for myself, and once I did, I began living a life that I couldn’t have imagined possible. I cannot support the premise that men are horrible and violent (although some are) and women are incapable of learning how to look for and recognize signs in potential partners that are destructive and controlling. Women can learn to recognize signs that can alert them, can learn boundaries and how to say, “hell no” to anyone who tries to manipulate and control them.
Theresa Crawford, LMFT
Catalyst Mental Health

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Too Much Coffee: What’s up with the zebra?

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

What’s with the zebra?
Last month you may have noticed a zebra show up on the front page of the Messenger. Maybe you noticed a smaller one at the bottom of page four in our information box with a little notice:
The Messenger is for profit and for a purpose – and we don’t sacrifice one for the other. We consider ourselves a zebra company, one that is both black and white. As a media company, we work to highlight issues, solve real, meaningful problems, and repair existing social systems. We are working with our readers and advertisers to create a more just and responsible society that hears, helps and heals the customers and communities we serve.
Yes, I’ve been binge listening to the podcast ZigZag with journalists-turned-entrepreneurs Manoush Zomorodi (Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business) and Jen Poyant (Executive Producer Note to Self, 2 Dope Queens). This season has hit upon so many of the issues I’m thinking about as a journalist and entrepreneur that I’m glued to the speakers.
I’ve been pondering the distinction of for-profit and non-profit for some time. Here, in the Twin Cities, we have a few non-profit newspapers, such as the Bugle in St. Anthony Park, the Alley in Phillips, the Community Reporter in the West End of St. Paul, and Access Press (statewide). And then we have the neighborhood for-profits including the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger and its sister newspaper the Midway Como Monitor, Greening Frogtown, the Northeaster, North News, the Villager, and Southside Pride.
What is different between us? There’s the obvious distinction that the non-profits have a board of directors who set the direction for the organization, while the for-profits have a single owner or two who make decisions. But aside from that, both structures pay editors, publishers, freelance photographers and writers, and sales staff. Pages are paid for primarily through advertising revenue, of which some is through grants and some via neighborhood groups. And both types of newspapers exist to educate and inform, serving that vital role in our democracy that’s integral to our First Amendment rights as American citizens.
When I set up TMC Publications, I considered going with a new(ish) form of corporation, the B (or benefit) Corp. Locally, Peace Coffee is a certified B Corp. At the end of their 20th year when they switched from non-profit to for-profit status under the helm of new owner Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee began searching for ways to further solidify their mission to creating good by supporting small-scale farmer cooperatives with industry-leading prices and committing to earth-friendly practices along the way (as explained on their web site). They learned about the B Corporation movement, a global initiative of businesses in every industry that see profit as secondary to the importance of people and planet, and they signed up.
However, as TMC Publications is a relatively small company, I wasn’t sure that B Corp really made sense for us, as it would increase our paperwork while not really changing how we do business.
Then I heard about Zebras.
Zebras believe in cooperation versus competition, sharing versus hoarding, mutualism versus parasitism. They are both/and, black and white. The point is to be sustainable, to offer good jobs at living wages, but not to grow so exponentially that we break apart. (Learn more at
According to Zebras United founding members Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz and Aniyia Williams, this alternative model balances profit and purpose, champions democracy, and puts a premium on sharing power and resources. “Companies that create a more just and responsible society will hear, help, and heal the customers and communities they serve,” they explained over at (I resonated so much with that line that I pulled it for our infomational box on page four so that I can continue to be inspired by it.)
Interestingly, zebra companies are often started by women and other underrepresented founders, they point out. The statistics about who gets large, venture funding is terrible but maybe not surprising as we see how sexism nad rascism is still ingrained in our society. Three percent of venture funding goes to women and less than one percent to people of color. Women start 30 percent of businesses, but they receive only 5 percent of small-business loans and 3 percent of venture capital. Yet when surveyed, women say they are in it for the long haul: to build profitable, sustainable companies.
These four women who began Zebras United believe that developing alternative business models to the startup status quo has become a central moral challenge of our time. “Think of our most valuable institutions – journalism, education, healthcare, government, the ‘third sector’ of nonprofits and social enterprises – as houses upon which democracy rests,” they wrote.
Ah, yes. There’s the place for journalism.
That’s where I see this field that is so important to our society.
Here at the Messenger, I’m not planning to make millions as an owner, and I’m content telling the stories of these neighborhoods. I believe it is important to provide connection, battle the anxiety and depression so prevalent today, and educate ourselves on the issues we face.
That requires cooperation. We can’t run quality articles without solid information from residents and organizations. And we can’t print pages, pay workers decent wages, and inform without solid financial backing from local businesses who support our work.
We’re in this together.
I’d love to hear what you think as your wrestle with these ideas. Send in a letter to the editor.
(Psst – Mention this editorial and your support for zebras and get 20% off your next ad purchase.)

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TOO MUCH COFFEE: Let’s start believing women and children

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen


It’s time to believe women and children.
This month, we launch a new series aimed at putting a face on domestic violence and intimate partner terrorism that we’re calling “Voices of Violence.”
The majority of people in this series will be anonymous for their safety, and to avoid causing trouble with their custody cases. Unfortunately, we can’t get the full story unless they can be assured that it won’t blow-back negatively on their drive to protect their kids – the foremost concern of the women I’ve interviewed.
However, I have carefully vetted their stories, and know that each woman is speaking for many who can tell the same sorts of stories with the same cycles of abuse. They all fell in love with a man who was good to them, and who later switched to angry, manipulative and controlling actions that left them baffled and confused. Things started out with behaviors that didn’t seem so bad, and then got worse with a fair amount of gaslighting thrown in so they would question what was really happening.
And then they got the questions from friends and family: Why did you stay? The answer is complicated, as you’ll see from these stories. And women are often pressured to stay and patch things up for the “sake of the kids” while they’re also told by others that if it were them, they would have left a long time ago. They would never have stood for this. In many way, these women can’t win. And, sometimes, a victimized person may not be able to get away from their abuser because the abuser will not let them do so.
Take a look around you. One in every three women you see and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (including slapping, shoving, pushing), and in some cases might not be considered “domestic violence.” That’s a pretty high number. This kind of thing is happening all around us and we probably don’t know it.
The sad thing is, being smart and educated, kind and empathetic, a good mom and a good wife – none of that prevents you from being abused. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and there is no safeguard from it, even though we wish there was.
But what is even sadder is the stories women tell about how they and their children haven’t been believed. How someone has questioned if what they said really happened. How a family member sided with the abuser. How Child Protection Services came out and said that the bruises and pain he left weren’t bad enough to launch an investigation that might impinge upon his career. How family courts ignored the signs and put children into unsafe situations because they think that any dad is better than no dad.
It’s true that fathers are important, but what’s even more true is that kids need to be protected. It’s up to us adults to keep them safe.
The children affected by this is staggering, and can be considered the greatest health crisis of our time. More and more research is backing up that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – such as witnessing abuse, being abused and experiencing your parents divorce – can be traced to a myriad of health and mental health issues that cost the world millions of dollars to treat.
Our series will look more closely at the women affected by intimate partner violence because they comprise the majority of those being abused and they are hurt more severely more often, but we recognize that men also find themselves in abusive relationships, as do those in same-sex relationships.
As I’ve chatted with people involved in domestic violence advocacy and the family court system here in Minnesota and around the country, one thing that is clear is our family court system hasn’t made enough progress in the area of intimate partner violence. It recognizes bruises and may hand out orders for protections for women, but it hasn’t stopped to consider the effect of that continued and ongoing abuse on children. It’s also stuck thinking that “It takes two to tango” when it can just take one disordered and mean individual determined to keep fighting and using the family court system to engage in domestic abuse via proxy. It is sad and hard to believe that some people will use their kids to keep hurting their exes for years – with no regard to the damage inflicted on their children.
Mothers know – and they’re pushing for change even while they are painted as vindictive, crazy and hysterical liars.
It’s past time that we listen when children tell us through their actions that they are in unsafe home environments. Next time you get frustrated by a kid with rebellious or aggressive behavior, consider the message they may be trying to tell you behind that “bad behavior.”
External signs of child abuse include:
• learning difficulties
• problems with relationships and socializing
• rebellious behavior
• aggressive and violent behavior
• anti-social behavior and criminality
• self-isolating behavior (making people dislike you)
• negative impulsive behavior (not caring what happens to yourself).
Signs of a child being emotional abused or in an emotional abusive home include:
• Appear continually withdrawn, anxious or depressed
• Display excessive fear of parents or caretakers
• Avoid doing things with other children
• Behave much younger than his or her age
• Behave older than their age e.g. ‘a little mother’
• Lag in physical, emotional or cognitive development
• Wet the bed
• Blame themselves for problems or believe they are ‘bad’
• Overreact when they make mistakes
• Have inappropriate reaction to pain, e.g. ‘I deserve this’
• Demonstrate neurotic behaviours such as hair twisting or rocking
• Self-harm or attempt suicide

If you are a victim experiencing abuse, contact Day One at 866-223-1111 to connect with services.

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MEET OUR STAFF: Asking questions, talking about interests and events

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jan Willms

I have been a writer for the Monitor and Messenger since around 2003. From the time I edited my high school newspaper, I have loved to write. My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and I worked as a staffer for the Fargo Forum, where I met my husband.
We later started and operated a weekly in Montana. The newspaper was our life. When our first son was born, after my water broke, I went in and did a few things on the paper and then drove myself to the hospital. It was print day, and we had to get the paper out, so my husband met the deadline and then came in to meet our son. A few days later, we put Liberty in a blanket in a drawer at our office, and he observed firsthand how newspaper production works. When our second son was born six years later, he too nestled in a drawer in the office with a colorful mobile above his head.
Running a weekly, we did it all – wrote the features, news articles and commentary; sold the ads; did the layout; wrote the headlines; took the photos; covered sports and entertainment. We were never caught up on sleep, and our social life consisted of covering stories, but it was the happiest time in our lives. After my husband died prematurely, and I entered the human services profession I have still always tried to keep a link to newspaper writing.
Community newspapers like the Messenger and Monitor are perfect, because I can still work full-time and continue to do interviews after work or on weekends. Although I have written about everything from elections to neighborhood meetings to conversations with authors and filmmakers, I love doing feature articles. Exploring what spurs a person’s creativity, what challenges him or her, or what stirs up the passion within is what I like most to do.
What sets off the creative spark in an author’s quest to complete a novel? What drives someone to start a nonprofit and help others less fortunate? Who are the mentors a musician looks up to? These are all questions that I like to find the answers to and share them with our readership.
I also like to write about the events that have shaped a person’s life. A young man once wanted to talk to us about his brother’s murder, and how it affected the family. We agreed to meet on three different occasions, but he never showed up. But the fourth time he did, and we talked for hours, and his story about his brother got told.
Perhaps most of all, writing for these papers has given me the opportunity to meet so many different people from all walks of life.
It is said that writing can be a lonely profession, but not when you are sharing a part of someone else’s world.
Meeting different persons, talking with them about what interests them, and putting it down on paper is a challenging but fulfilling task. I find that just the physical act of writing is therapeutic, and if you can make a story interesting enough to catch a reader’s eye, it makes journalism a very rewarding profession.

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