PAVSA seeks to protect, empower victims of sexual assault


Each year, there are roughly 237,868 victims of sexual assault in the United States. And 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

This statistic, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), is why a Duluth non-profit of 39 years called Program for Aid against Sexual Assault (PAVSA) is looking to support victims of sexual assault, educate the community and advocate for change by providing training for such cases.

“They have people open 24/7, which is a huge bonus for me and everyone else,” said Anne Fisk, who works with sexual assault victims in the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.

Fisk only works during the day and said she believes the 24-hour service is beneficial because it allows victims to have a support system through the entire process.

“The one thing that’s really cool about Duluth is that we were the first ones in the country to create an ‘anonymous report,’ which has been a success throughout the four locations in our nation,” said Christina Harkness, director of operations for the Women’s Center.

This reporting option gives the victim privacy from the police. When an incident is reported to PAVSA, it sends police a case number and an envelope with the evidence inside, rather than the name of the victim.

“This gives the victim time to think,” Harkness said. “The repercussions of each incident is what people need time for.”

There is no time limit for when a victim can report. Once a victim is ready, the police will pull up the case number and begin an investigation. PAVSA and the victim will give the specifications necessary for police to achieve a just result.

One of the ways PAVSA funds its organization is by hosting the annual PAVSA Art Auction.

“A couple hundred people show up, and the art auction gives us the funds for unrestricted victim services,” Harkness said.

This year will be the 34th annual art auction, held on Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the Greysolon Ballroom. Tickets can be purchased for $65, and all proceeds go toward supporting the organization.

The raffle consists of work by local painters, knitters, potters, beaders, jewelers and more. A sneak peek of what has already been donated can be found at

“We have people like the chief of police walking the desserts around for our guests,” Harkness said. “It’s very fun.”

Discover Duluth within: East 3rd Street

Volleyball ready for end of season, playoff action