A Gathering for Grief and Gratitude
On Tuesday, May 25, the state will be arguing in favor of its motion to dismiss Rachel's case without prejudice. While we believe that a dismissal with prejudice (meaning the case would permanently be closed) is a more just decision, we know that, particularly for domestic and sexual violence victims, the system can be more about legality than justice. And so, on May 26, the day after Rachel's hearing, we plan to come together. The reality is that we don't know exactly what the through-line will be that day. What we do know, though, is that grief is wise, and gratitude sometimes brings hope. What we do know is on May 26 we can finally show our support for Rachel in person (and do so on her terms, remembering how she hates being in the spotlight). We can bring signs and cards and our open, honest hearts to Depot Park in Kalispell. We can do what this pandemic has prevented us from doing thus far: we can gather. Come ready to support. Come ready to bear witness. Come just as you are.
2020 Great Fish Cairn
October 7, 2020 by Jennifer Parsons There are cairns of truth that help us find our way in hard times, and while the public domain may not have exhaustive information about Mr. Roger's mother, we are reminded of the sage advice she offered her son during times of disaster: to look for all the helpers. Such a humble word, and such valuable guidance for a child. 2020 has become a memorable year for a lot of reasons we wouldn’t choose. Pandemic. Tragedy. Reckoning. Heartbreak. Challenge. At the Abbie, we are grateful for the people who aren’t just choosing to look for the helpers. We are grateful for the people who are choosing to become the helpers*. To be sure, there are endless ways to be a helper, and we look forward to sharing with you some of the amazing collaborations and acts of service we see from our vantage point throughout the year.
For this moment in time, though, we want to say thank you to the over 350 of you who dug into your pockets and GAVE through the Great Fish Challenge so we could accommodate the demand we saw for our mental health services as the Valley quarantined. It is with humility and somberness that we accept the investment you have made with us. 350 of you! That’s a lot of helpers. So much so, that this year’s Great Fish feels like a cairn on the mountain, additional confirmation that we are walking the path we need to. We have much work to do to right the injustices that occur in our Valley, but as we take a moment to catch our breath and steady our footing, we are grateful for the quality and quantity of helpers our community’s children are getting to see, even when, especially when, things are tough. Thank you to each of you who helped during this year's Great Fish Challenge.
Domestic and sexual violence are not okay, and we will walk that trail all day long.
With gratitude and grit, thank you all. * We won't let it go without saying that while we are grateful for those who become helpers, it's not at the expense of those who ask for help. We know that it's easier to give help than receive it, and that we do neither exclusively throughout our lives.
A CALL FOR ACTION
A CALL FOR ACTION FROM THE ABBIE SHELTER IN KALISPELL, MT: WE NEED YOUR HELP TO RIGHT A TERRIBLE WRONG To our community and beyond: We are deeply grieved that our community member, friend, and colleague, Rachel Bellesen, is being unjustly prosecuted for deliberate homicide in Sanders County for killing her abusive ex-husband in a justifiable exercise of her right to self-defense from his attempted rape on October 8th, 2020. This is a terrible injustice occurring in the State of Montana, sending a hopeless message to all victims of domestic violence that their voices will be unheard or their safety unprioritized in our legal system. On October 9th, 2020, in the Justice Court of Sanders County, County Attorney Naomi Leisz formally charged Rachel Ann Bellesen, a resident of Flathead County, with deliberate homicide of Jacob Angelo Glace, who resided in Sanders County. Three weeks later, Rachel was released on bail with a bond of $20,000, an uncharacteristically low bond for such a serious charge. Since then, Rachel’s pro-bono legal team has been working tirelessly to see this unjust case dismissed. On April 6th, 2021, Rachel and her attorney made an offer to prosecutors to turn over their entire defense to the state for their evaluation, in exchange for a dismissal without prejudice with an automatic conversion to “with prejudice” barring prosecution after one year. Instead of responding to this offer, on April 9th, 2021 the prosecution filed a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice , based on weak arguments of lack of time instead of acknowledging the gaping holes and investigative errors in the state’s case. A motion to dismiss “without prejudice” is not justice for Rachel. In order to achieve true justice for Rachel, this case must be dismissed WITH prejudice to ensure that Rachel will be protected from unjust prosecution in the future, and that this case is eliminated from her permanent record. While the dismissal is a step forward, it means that this case will follow Rachel for the rest of her life. She will live in fear that the case may be refiled. These charges will remain a permanent stain on Rachel’s record. While the state has come close to admitting a lack of evidence to continue with deliberate homicide charges, they have not vindicated Rachel. These actions diminish the rights of victims to safety and justice in our state’s legal system. A motion to dismiss without prejudice allows everyone to walk away unharmed from this unjust prosecution – except for Rachel. From the law enforcement officers who mishandled the gathering of evidence, to the County Attorney who unnecessarily rushed the charging of this case in the first place, Rachel remains the only person who will be followed by this outcome. Unless the case is dismissed with prejudice, her name will forever be tied to her charges. On April 14th, 2021, at long last, this case landed on the desk of Austin Knudsen, the Attorney General for the state of Montana. Despite the countless errors in the prosecution’s investigation and the obvious lack of evidence noted in the April 9th motion to dismiss without prejudice, the Attorney General made no changes to the motion. Rachel will either face the lifelong threat of refiled charges, or she will face a trial by jury in July. With this act, our Attorney General has chosen not to act on behalf of justice and on behalf of domestic violence survivors everywhere. We need your help: Please contact the Attorney General by May 10th, 2021 and tell him to dismiss the charges against Rachel Bellesen with prejudice. Based on the evidence available today, we seek your support, your voice, and your written call upon Attorney General Austin Knudsen to end this overzealous and inappropriate prosecution of an innocent person, and dismiss the charges against Rachel Ann Bellesen WITH PREJUDICE. To do otherwise would be a gross injustice against a survivor of domestic violence. Rachel should be free to live her life without fear of the legal system, instead of suffering further injustice at the hands of the very system she works alongside to protect and empower other victims of domestic violence. The tragic irony could not be more profound. Rachel Bellesen works as is a Domestic Violence Advocate and is a service to our community. Rachel is a compassionate and quiet person. An expert baker, handy-woman of all trades, and mother of four adult children, Rachel works as a domestic violence advocate with the Abbie Shelter in Kalispell. As the Shelter Coordinator she has served hundreds of survivors of domestic violence during her tenure, helping them seek safety and recovery from abusive partners just like her ex-husband. The events of October 8th, 2020 were far from the first acts of violence that Jacob Glace committed against Rachel. The charging documents themselves support that, on the day of the tragedy, Mr. Glace physically and sexually assaulted Rachel. Her shirt, bra, and pants were ripped, and Mr. Glace’s scratch marks were on Rachel’s chest. Had the assault continued, Rachel would have suffered (at a minimum) a completed rape by Mr. Glace. It was far from the first time Rachel was assaulted by Mr. Glace. It is likely that her past trauma of being raped by Mr. Glace, paired with her current work as a domestic violence advocate, gave her the strength to escape his grasp and defend herself against his violent assault. The prosecution of this case has been riddled with error from the beginning. The Sanders County Attorney filed a deliberate homicide charge against Rachel before a standard coroner’s inquiry was conducted. It is likely that the sexual assaults which Rachel suffered immediately prior to her having to defend herself would have cleared her from being charged. Sadly, that coroner’s inquiry did not take place. In addition, despite an offer from the Montana Department of Justice’s Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to aid in the investigation, the Sanders County Attorney declined and relied upon an inexperienced trainee to conduct the investigation. Mr. Glace had a long and fraught history of committing domestic and sexual violence crimes against multiple victims, including Rachel. Mr. Glace’s first documented assault of Rachel was in Washington State in 2004, where Mr. Glace pleaded guilty (Alford) to Fourth Degree Assault - Domestic Violence and Third Degree Malicious Mischief - Domestic Violence. He dragged her from a friend’s house by her hair and beat her in a parking lot as punishment for leaving him. In 2010, with another victim, Glace was found guilty of Partner or Family Member Assault (PFMA) in Flathead County stemming from an incident in August 2009, where he assaulted his new wife on their wedding day at Rachel’s home. It was Rachel and Jake’s son, age 10 at the time, who called 911 on his father that day. In April 2020, with yet another victim, Mr. Glace was charged with PFMA after he allegedly punched his partner of 10 years in Plains, MT in front of their children. In this, the victim was quoted in the Kalispell Daily Interlake newspaper saying, “I met Jacob (Glace) in February 2010 and we started dating in April. We were together until December 2019 and lived together until he hit me in front of my kids in March 2020. He was very abusive across the board, sexually, physically, emotionally, and financially," the victim said. "An investigation against him was opened in June (2020) for sexually assaulting one of the kids." A few months later, while Mr. Glace was out on bail for these charges, he acquired yet another felony PFMA charge for allegedly assaulting yet another victim in Mineral County. All the while, Rachel maintained a relationship with Mr. Glace in order to co-parent their 2 children, now young adults. In fact, the reason she had gone to meet her ex-husband in Sanders County on October 8th, 2020 was to appeal to him not to follow through on a threat to assault their son. Clearly the October 8th, 2020 assault on Rachel was only the latest in a string of recent crimes in 2020 by Mr. Glace. There is a very strong argument that Mr. Glace should have been in jail, facing these two felony assault charges, as would have been the case in most other jurisdictions in the State of Montana. Needless to say, this may have protected Rachel from his violent attack. In summary, Montana taxpayer dollars are paying for the unjust prosecution of a domestic violence advocate for protecting herself against a violent attack from her abusive ex-husband - in Sanders County, Montana, a county and state that champion gun rights for self-defense. This tragic story is filled with contradiction. This expense on the back of Montana taxpayers is a particular sting to domestic violence organizations, as we fight tirelessly every year to maintain our financial support from the state. As domestic violence advocates, we watch dangerous domestic violence abusers walk free every day. Violent abusers are often unprosecuted, out on low bail despite high indications of lethality, continuing to abuse their partners with virtually no accountability from the legal system. This case is a sting to all of us as we stand on the front lines of domestic violence in our state while we watch our colleague suffer. Please contact Attorney General Austin Knudsen today, and tell him to dismiss the charges against Rachel Ann Bellesen with prejudice. Use this online form or call 406-444-2026 TODAY. Then contact Senator Tester , Senator Daines , Congressperson Rosendale , and your local Montana legislators and ask them to send the same message to the Attorney General’s office. A hearing for a motion to dismiss the case against Rachel is set in Thompson Falls for May 25th, 2021. On behalf of all victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the state of Montana, we appreciate your timely response to this matter by May 10th, 2021 . IN THE PLACES WHERE RACHEL HAS BEEN MADE VOICELESS, LET’S MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD. With gratitude and hope, Hilary Shaw, Executive Director The Abbie Shelter, Kalispell, MT firstname.lastname@example.org , 406-261-9082 www.abbieshelter.org PS. Rachel’s story has been selected and is currently being filmed by an A&E television series entitled, “The Accused: Guilty or Innocent.” In the next year when her episode is aired, the entire nation will have the opportunity to witness how the state of Montana responded to this injustice against a domestic violence survivor and advocate.
A Fresh Start
September 4, 2020 by Jennifer Parsons There's something about a fresh start. There’s something about cleaning up the lines and remembering who we are and who we want to be that clarifies the present. At the Abbie, we get to learn a lot about fresh starts. We see the strength. We know the fear. We breathe the hope. And, we know that deep beauty lies not in a clean sheet of paper, but in the masterpiece that is created when someone pours their heart onto a worn page. Wisdom and experience are invaluable tools for navigating the future. All that to say our new website has us thinking about our own fresh start and how it reflects the worn and practiced pages of advocacy and courage that have come before us.
People have been making this organization what it is since 1976, and we are grateful to expand our online presence in a way that is consistent with our organization’s goals. We want you, our community, to know our deepest values . We want you to know that we are here for YOU, and that if you need us, you should call . We want you to know that if calling is not comfortable, there are other ways to get support. If you have a computer that is safe to use, you can contact us ( here and here and here ). We also want you to know that while we have a shelter and consider it a privilege to house those in dangerous situations, that is not all we do. Court advocacy and accompaniment is our most utilized service. Counseling is free to those who need it. Our 24 Helpline offers confidential support, because let’s face it, sometimes we just need to talk to someone who gets it. And let's not forget the community advocacy and training that we offer. Our new website gives us a fresh start, but our values are very much the same. We are here for you, our dear community.
A Letter to the Editor from the Abbie Shelter Board of Directors
"In the end, there will always be painful questions that do not have answers. But we know that with proper support from a coordinated justice system, survivors fare better." See below for the full letter to the editor.
Added Pandemic Barriers
COVID-19 has added additional barriers to the many obstacles survivors face when determining the safest life for their children and themselves, as the following article notes. The Abbie's door and Helpline are open for services. 406.752.7273. https://dailyinterlake.com/news/2020/apr/17/stay-at-home-order-can-be-challenging-for-6/
Anger by Abbie Frederick
Anger Something Powerful Like a roll of Mighty Thunder Or a sense of Longing For Peace and Justice. Some insidious thing that grows And feeds on itself As it festers inside me When I try to look the other way. And then it Bursts out, Sparks and burns the ones I most love… When neither of us expect it. Oh yes, anger. One of the colors between red and orange, Deep and Bright, Among all those other Deep and Bright feelings in the Human Rainbow. ….just another color….. JUST ANOTHER COLOR?!?! HOW DARE YOU…. try to ignore me.. store me up like so many green beans in the root cellar. HOW DARE YOU…. melt away my edges, slow my growth, diffuse my energy with a little humor… Oh Anger, would you believe – I’ve sensed something fragile, delicate and tender in your storm nature… with all your punches – all your walls – hurting others, driving them away… I could call your bluff By offering my love. Oh, dear friend anger. When will I ever learn to use the Light from your sparks, from your potent color, to show my way along the darkest pathways of my life? I treasure your energy The lessons you teach The fiercely loving place you came from Inside of me. Abbie Frederick
Holiday Wish Lists
December 22,2019 From our home to yours, we send wishes for love and peace to all of our friends and supporters during this special season of gratitude and giving. We hope that your holiday is abundant with meaning – a time of connecting with community, friends, family, spirit, and those who love us. At the Abbie, we know that the need for our services does not wane with the holiday warmth. For the people we serve, the desire for safety bears the extra seasonal weight of yearning for normalcy when everyone else is focused on celebration and ritual. As the afternoons darken, we watch the people we serve fill out their “wish lists” for our Adopt-a-Family program for the holidays. They list jackets and boots, toys for the kids, or household necessities in nervous preparation for moving out on their own. (With lots of encouragement, people will also add a small gift or two for themselves.) At the Abbie, we know that there is a different “wish list” buried deep in the hearts of the women we serve. Those are the wish lists that move and inspire us to continue our work. We know that all of the presents in the world cannot undo the hurt and damage that has been done by domestic violence to the families we help. At the Abbie, this is what the holidays and gift-giving mean to us and the people we serve: “Jackets and Boots” mean basic needs, so that the people we serve can continue to participate in their community. Instead of being a time of indulgence, the holidays may bring the basic resources needed just to sustain and survive. “Toys” mean happy kids, who feel safe at home with all caregivers. Kids who feel the security – that all kids deserve – to play and be free in their own space. Kids who don’t have to carry fear or worry for the safety of one parent at the hands of the other. “Household Necessities” mean independence, self-determination, and all of the extra burdens that come with running a household without a partner. Most people don’t plan to be supporting their family on their own (while recovering from trauma). More than anything, survivors of domestic violence wish that their partner had fulfilled their end of the bargain, and not forced them to choose between living in danger and living alone. And so this winter, when we ask for your gift to the Abbie Shelter and all of its programming, we ask you to help us ease that “aloneness.” We ask for the most meaningful gifts: community, friends, family, spirit, and love – as we work to restore hope in the lives of the people we serve. They need us, and we need you. From our home to yours, we THANK YOU for your support, and for all that you do to sustain hope in the lives of those you love.
Increased Call Volume for Domestic Violence Cases in Montana
See below for some Montana specific statistics about domestic violence calls. https://dailyinterlake.com/news/2021/jun/13/statistics-show-domestic-violence-rise-montana/
Increasing the Valley's Advocates
We are grateful for the funding that is coming in to fund a new advocate position. See the link below for the full story. https://dailyinterlake.com/news/2021/apr/04/incoming-advocates-will-bolster-domestic-violence-/
July 4, 2020 by Hilary Shaw The truth is, every day is Independence Day at the Abbie Shelter. You can see it in our mission statement: To promote safety, independence and empowerment to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. You can see it in the action plans, goals, and progress of the brave people who seek our services. And you can see it in the spirit of our organization, working tirelessly to ensure we have all of the tools we need to provide the best services we can to the people who need us. My grandfather came to this country from Poland as a refugee in 1948, and he taught me at an early age the words on the Statue of Liberty that greeted him upon his arrival to New York City: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The Abbie Shelter doesn’t have a golden door. Nonetheless, our door is always open to the tired and the poor, and to the 1 in 4 women yearning to be free from domestic violence. We “lift our lamps” to shed light on the injustice and the pain caused by domestic violence in our valley. None of us who work here at the Abbie got into this work because we believe that only some people deserve safety in their relationships, but not all. Regardless of color or creed, affiliation or orientation, all are welcome at the Abbie. We remain steadfast in our commitment that every person deserves the highest quality of care as they seek recovery and safety from domestic and sexual violence. It is “liberty and justice for ALL,” after all.
Love Put Out Into the World
“Dear Abbie Shelter, Hello! I’m not sure who’s going to read this letter but I am glad to be writing it. I just want to tell whoever how much this program means to me and what all of you stand for. I have never had to use your services for myself, but I have been in an abusive household. My stepfather was violent – and there were nights I didn’t know if I would be alive. I am now 16, he is out of our lives, and I am so happy that there were people like you who cared and helped my mother. So this is a letter of appreciation from me on behalf of my family. I hope that women and children you are helping escape their abusive situations, heal, and find hope, from the strength within themselves as well as the hope that you’ve given them. Thank you for everything you stand for and all of the work and love put out into the world by you guys.” Although we don’t receive them often, letters such as this confirm our suspicions that something good is happening at the Abbie Shelter. From the court room to the therapy chair, from the phone line to the shelter’s front door, the love we are putting out into the world is landing on the right hearts. The stories we are hearing on our 24-hour Helpline seem to be getting sadder. The needs in our community seem to be getting darker. Some days we are hopeful… others we are overwhelmed. So when we hear these words from this young woman, her voice rising and her future free of violence, we are called to give our full attention to the quiet song of hope that follows us wherever we go, singing softly amidst the din of mounting caseloads and sad stories: we are doing something right.