1 in 3000: Anita Mycke holds out her hand to help those who need it most in Perham

I am a city boy, born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis. My entire world changed when I took a job at the Perham Focus as the newspaper's main reporter in December. Now, I am here, in a town of just over 3,000 people, learning what small t...

Anita Mycke poses for a portrait at Someplace Safe in Perham. (Carter Jones/ Focus)

I am a city boy, born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis. My entire world changed when I took a job at the Perham Focus as the newspaper's main reporter in December. Now, I am here, in a town of just over 3,000 people, learning what small town living is all about. Perham started surprising me right from the start, and I quickly learned that I don't want to just report what's happening in Perham, I want to report on the people who make this town tick in the most inconspicuous of ways. Some people have a way of always attracting the spotlight, but my 'focus' will be on those who quietly go about their day making this community a better place to live. And since this is my new journey, too, and my "city" eyes are fresh, I wanted to document the adventure of discovering what this "Perham pride" thing is all about. Everybody in Perham has a story, unique in their own way...1 in 3,000.

Meeting Anita

Anita Mycke loves the small town feel of Perham. Mycke moved to Perham from Montana in 1995 looking for a change of scenery and a break from the big city life. Since then, she's been a church youth director, ran a daycare, sat on the city council, raised three kids and adopted two more. For the last year, she's served as the Crime Victim Advocate at Someplace Safe, helping to get victims of domestic violence and other crimes back on their feet again.

Working at Someplace Safe wasn't on Mycke's radar at all, until Cindy Olson from Community Outreach at Calvary Lutheran said they were hiring.

"I knew what Someplace was, but I didn't know all that they did," Mycke said.


Despite her lack of experience, Mycke said she got the job because of her connections through different charitable efforts.

"We can teach you to be an advocate, but we can't teach you how to learn the resources of a town and be tapped in, that's your gifts," Mycke recalls the director telling her when she was hired.

Those gifts include starting the baby bin at Crosspoint Alliance Church, being involved with Kinship and founding Healing Hearts Horse Ranch, a nonprofit horse therapy program.

After a year, Mycke said it's been an adjustment, and she's still learning.

"I had this nice ideal picture of Perham, and then I got this job and I found another little part of Perham that I didn't know," she said. "I knew it existed, but I didn't know it existed."

The hardest part of Mycke's job is having to leave her work where it is at the end of the day and trying to realize she's doing a good job, even if she doesn't see the results right away.

"I may help a woman three seperate times before she finally chooses to leave," she said. "It's hard to not want that for her the first time, and to respect her wishes."

Someplace Safe offers client-led services, so at the end of the day, its up to each individual to decide if they're going to leave or stay.


"There's definitely enough of the good stories of them leaving and starting over that help the bad days not seem as bad," she said.

After a long day, Mycke turns to her horses to deal with the stories she hears. "I can talk to my horses about it, they won't tell anybody."

Everybody, including Mycke, has their own opinion about domestic violence, but that opinion has been shaped through experience and education.

"Now I know sometimes it is safer for a woman to stay in the relationship for the time being than it is to leave," she said. "A year ago, I wouldn't have said that; I would've been 'you just need to leave.'"

Mycke's job isn't to talk anybody into leaving, and she admits some clients may be missed, because they think if they walk in the door she's going to make them leave.

"We're here to listen and hopefully empower them to make the choices that are best for them and their family," she said.

That empowerment includes safety planning, providing gas money and connecting people to local food shelves.

While a majority of their clients are domestic abuse victims, Mycke said they're ready to help anyone walk through the criminal system, including victims of identity theft and burglary.


While it's a tough job, Mycke fondly recalls the success stories. One day, a family was leaving, and a little girl said "I love you!" to Mycke while holding a new doll and cradle. Mycke responded "I love you too, honey!"

Mycke said it took this client multiple times before they were on the road to recovery and a new life.

"It's rewarding to know we've done our best to help them. The hard part is just stepping back and letting them decide what road they're going to take," she said. "We'll be here if they decide to come back again in six months and decide they want to take a different road."

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