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Telling secrets
"Because of what I learned at Alexandra House it was not as hard to tell, but it was still a little bit." -Izabella Raleigh

by Kathy Magnuson

"You never know what is going on." "It could be at your next door neighbor's house." "When more people know what could be going on, then more people can help to prevent it." "You can't know everything that is going on, but if you do know, you would want to do something about it."

Izabella Raleigh learned that and more by tagging along with her mom, Marnie Ochs-Raleigh, to board meetings for Alexandra House, an Anoka County nonprofit offering services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. As 12-year-old Izabella did art projects, waiting for her mom's meetings to be done, she listened and learned, too.

Izabella was prepared for what came next. "I was sitting in a class with my friend. She had a whole bunch of bruises all over on her arms and legs. I asked her what happened. She said that she fell off the bus. Later she started crying and I asked her what had happened again. Then she said that she didn't fall off the bus, but her mom had hit her. She told me I couldn't tell anybody and so I said, 'all right, I won't.'"

She felt loyal to her friend but at the same time, she was scared for her and felt she should tell someone for her friend's safety. "Because of what I learned at Alexandra House it was not as hard to tell, but it was still a little bit." She told her mother, who spoke to the school counselor and local authorities, all with anonymity.

"It felt like a relief that something was [going to be done]. I felt a lot better knowing that she was safer. [My friend] thought it would be protecting her if I didn't tell, but it protected her more that I did. I felt like I really helped her," Izabella said.

Since then, Ochs-Raleigh said, the girl has received help, the mom has gotten counseling. With intervention, there has been no additional abuse.


"She later thanked me for helping her," Izabella said of her friend. "She said she would not have had the courage or the guts to do it herself because her mom had threatened her [about that]. The friend said, "Maybe no one else would have done it for me."

When asked if she had advice for others in her situation, Izabella said, "If telling would not cause something bad to happen, you need to tell." As for advice for victims of abuse, she offered, "If it is you, you need to try to stop it or tell somebody that you can trust, like a school counselor."

At an Alexandra House event, Izabella had seen the Silent Witness Project, an exhibit of life-sized silhouettes of Minnesota women who were victims of domestic violence, along with their stories. One especially made an impression on her. "It was a cutout of a woman and her daughter. And the husband killed them both. The daughter was 8 so that one was really sad. It made me think that if that can happen with an 8-year-old girl and her dad, just imagine what could happen to anybody."

Alexandra House, www.alexandrahouse.org
Crisis Hotline
The Silent Witness Project display is available at no charge to any group interested in the campaign against sexual and domestic violence. Contact the Minnesota Women's Consortium, 651-228-0338, info@mnwomen.org, www.mnwomen.org
Where do you see women connecting and making 
change in your world? Send me your story, magnuson@womens press.com

Read more about the Silent Witness Project in the MWP story archive:

Silent no more:

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