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Guest Author: Attending the 4th World Conference on Women’s Shelters in Taiwan with GRW

How We Work, Asia


Darcy Berglund, Committee Member (left) with Cheryl Thomas, CEO and Sara Mowchan, Development and Communications Manager

Guest Author: Attending the 4th World Conference on Women’s Shelters in Taiwan
My observations attending with Global Rights for Women

By Darcy Berglund, Global Rights for Women Committee Member
December 5th, 2019

Forget the 10,000 lakes, forget Prince—I take that back, don’t ever forget Prince—but, as those of you who support Global Rights for Women already know, Minnesota has something else to be incredibly proud of, and last month it was on display in a crowded meeting room in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where attendees of the 4th World Conference on Women’s Shelters gathered for one of the conference’s workshops.

Cheryl Thomas, CEO of Minneapolis-based GRW, stood before the international crowd.  Some 50+ women (with more trying to get in) were packed into a room for 40. Behind Cheryl, on a large screen, shone The Power and Control Wheel, a tool created by Duluth’s Ellen Pence. (The wheel identifies the tactics of isolation, humiliation, manipulation, financial deprivation, punctuated by physical violence,  that men [mostly] use to control women.) It never gets old, witnessing this combination of forces coming out of Minnesota, a combination that has transformed, and continues to transform, safety and justice for women around the world. A women’s human rights leader like Cheryl, and Pence’s game-changing tools for addressing domestic violence, create an equation where the sum is greater than its parts, and the ripple effects do nothing short of save lives.

Cheryl Thomas referencing the now globally-used Power and Control Wheel created in Minnesota

From the back of the room I looked around at the women listening to Cheryl speak on the topic of the workshop, “inter-agency cooperation,” a concept centered around Ellen Pence’s CCR, or Community Coordinated Response, for which the Power and Control Wheel is used. They were quiet, attentive, some seemed transfixed.  

A good number of attendees were familiar with CCR; indeed, Cheryl had asked at the start of her presentation how many knew of it, and some 50 percent of the audience had raised their hands.  It is amazing that CCR, often called The Duluth Model, has made it to communities where 50 percent of these attendees live. The Power and Control Wheel, translated into dozens of languages, resonates with victims around the world. Mongolia. Canada. Countries in both Western and Eastern Europe. Australia. Then there was the other 50 percent, the percent that gazed quietly at the screen in our hot meeting room, people who have been devoting their time and energy to women’s safety, but who don’t have these tools, no CCR, back home.  My heart went out to them, and I almost teared up.

I was reminded of the seemingly endless extent of domestic violence, this most pervasive of public health crisis’, and I was keenly aware, as Cheryl wound up her presentation, that in the 40 years since Pence and her colleagues in Duluth began to revolutionize how to address DV, there are only so many messengers.  How many years will it take, I wondered as I stood behind this diverse crowd, for communities everywhere to have their own version of this Minnesota magic?

The beauty was, there we were, and there was the Power and Control Wheel, and there were Cheryl’s words. For some, it was a start.

Panelists Cheryl Thomas, Rosa Logar, and Ebony Rempel

Rosa Logar, of Vienna, Austria, spoke after Cheryl.  She made it clear that CCR holds a central place in the DV work in Europe.  Rosa is co-founder of Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), and is currently Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Center Vienna.  With her sharp mind and years of experience, Rosa focused on context: she pointed out that methods like CCR are effective only if a democratic governing body is in place.  Rosa told how in Austria they had 18 months of government by a right-wing coalition (ending only recently), and that in that time they began to lose 30 years of progress around women’s rights.  They began to lose feminist-centered approaches to problems like DV. Approaches like CCR.

 In case there aren’t enough reasons to fear strongmen….

Next and last to speak was Ebony Rempel, of Alberta, Canada.  Ebony is with Odyssey House in the town of Grande Prairie. Ebony spoke not only of CCR, but of the High Risk Assessment, a widely-used tool created a few decades ago by another DV pioneer, Jacquelyn Campbell, of Maryland.  (Not all innovations have come out of Minnesota, it must be admitted.) To this day Campbell travels extensively to train groups in the implementation of the High Risk Assessment. Ebony explained the value of the High Risk Assessment in the work that she and her colleagues do.

Q & A followed Ebony, with a baffling pronouncement from two  young women from Europe that they do not believe in the High Risk Assessment, nor in CCR.  Cheryl, Rosa, and Ebony did hot have time to summon their collective knowledge to address that one.  Then a woman from Cyprus spoke up briefly about how CCR changed the game in the DV work in her country: it made all the difference, she said.

A final question mentioned coercive control. Cheryl answered with impressive commentary on how coercive control abuses a woman’s rights.  She went on, in off-the-cuff yet powerful fashion: there is no possibility of a healthy society, anywhere, unless laws and tools and practices are in place that protect a woman’s right to be free from violence and control. 

Few places on earth have contributed as much, in terms of laws and tools and practices for protecting a woman’s right to be free from violence and control, as the state of Minnesota.

And the work goes on.  It is remarkable. It is historic. And Minnesotans should be very, very proud.

Our Vision

Global Rights for Women is a leading voice in the global movement to end violence against women and girls. GRW builds international partnerships that advance laws, values, and practices to create communities where all women and girls live free from violence and threats of violence. In times of greater resistance to human rights from regressive forces, GRW makes an uncompromising commitment to the universal acceptance of women and girls’ human right to be free from violence.