Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA)/ Fitger’s Inn

Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA)

Sara Niemi, Executive Director at PAVSA, says that seeing the strength and perseverance of survivors of sexual assault can be inspiring. “They’ve endured so much and yet they keep going.”

PAVSA is located in the heart of Downtown Duluth. They are a rape crises center that provides an array of services to victims, and education and advocacy to the community at large. Because they must be so many things to so many people depending on a victim’s situation, their list of services is lengthy. More information on these services can be found on the PAVSA website at

Support Services for Victims: They have a crisis line that is staffed 24 hours a day by trained sexual assault advocates. In fact, every one of their staff is a trained advocate and so walk-ins are welcome during business hours, or you can call and schedule an appointment.

Hospital Advocacy: Hospital advocates meet victims at the hospital. They give support to the individual, families, and friends, answer questions, present options and help guide victims through the process that will follow. They also work closely with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): PAVSA has 12 nurses on staff that are specially trained. They help ensure that the medical examination is conducted thoroughly, professionally and with compassion for the victim.  They have experience in collecting evidence, medical and legal interviewing and documentation and more.

Mental Health Treatment: Sexual assault survivors can face many forms of trauma and it’s important to have access to counseling and support. PAVSA provides services at no charge to the victim, from one-on-one sessions and support groups to yoga, to assist with healing trauma.

Law Services: Navigating legal systems can be frustrating and confusing. PAVSA gives victims access to legal assistance. This could include issues with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, child custody, divorce, restraining orders, etc.

Human Trafficking: PAVSA is available 24 hours with a crisis response team for exploited youth. In addition, they also seek to educate the community on signs of trafficking, support groups and more.

Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI): This collaboration with the Duluth Police Department has successfully eliminated the backlog of un-submitted sexual assault kits for Duluth as reported in May of 2018. The new procedures enacted by this collaboration will also assure the expedient processing of kits in the future.

RAIIN StatisticsThe statistics for sexual assaults can be overwhelming. The needs of someone in crisis who has just experienced an assault can be vast and many resources will be needed in the recovery and follow up. Sometimes the most immediate needs can be as simple as clothing and personal care products. PAVSA’s Executive Director, Sara Niemi, says they are grateful for the personal hygiene products that they receive from their Heart of Hospitality Program Partner, Fitger’s Inn. PAVSA provides these items to any clients in need of them. They can easily distribute them when they go to assist a client, and they also provide them for drop-ins and clients that come directly to PAVSA’s office. In the past, they would get donations of these products from the community here and there. Now, thanks to the HOHP they have a steady stream from Fitger’s Inn, who drops them off regularly.

In addition to their use in crisis situations, Sara said they often bring some hygiene products with them when they staff informational booths in the community. “These are Aveda products, which are really nice.” This is a bonus because it can draw people to the booth and open a discussion. Whether it is someone who expresses the need for help or they just get an opportunity to get their message out.

PAVSA relies heavily on volunteers who are thoroughly trained to assist with crisis situations. On top of that, they have 14 full-time and 3 part-time staff. All of their services from advocacy to legal advice to therapy is provided to clients at no cost! Their funding comes from generous donors and special events. In fact, their Autumn Event is coming up on November 9th at the DECC. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the event includes a silent auction, raffle, and great food. For tickets and more information, check out their event site at


Fitger’s Inn

When Kari Friedman, the Assistant Hotel Manager at Fitger’s Inn, learned about the Heart of Hospitality Program, it was an easy decision to join. Donating gently used amenities was an easy way to help the community. Some of Kari’s staff were familiar with PAVSA already and were very glad to know they would be partnered with them.

The change in the housekeeping staff’s routine is barely noticeable. They take any of the gently used bottles and place them in a separate bucket on their cart. At the end of the day, the items are taken down to the office. Once a week Kari sorts through them, counts them and takes them directly to the PAVSA office just a short distance away. They collect 100-200 bottles each month. Fitger’s Inn had never considered donating their gently used amenities before they joined the HOHP, but it certainly is on their minds now. While they don’t go through a lot of towels and bedding like larger hotels do, they will certainly donate them in the future. Fitger’s Inn tries to be as green as possible, which is why providing Aveda products for their guests makes sense. They have signs in the rooms indicating that, unless asked, they won’t replace towels and bedding each day, thus promoting water conservation. They also use the most environmentally friendly cleaning products that they can find. Now, by donating their gently used amenities they are decreasing their waste and their team feels better knowing they are helping out their community.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s