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Rapid City youth, police team up to paint anti-domestic violence mural
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Mural takes aim at domestic violence

Rapid City youth, police team up to paint anti-domestic violence mural

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Rapid City youth and police officers joined forces Wednesday by using colorful spray paint to create an Art Alley mural speaking out about domestic violence. 

The two-story mural is "spreading the word out there about what we want to change in our community and shows (domestic violence) is a problem," said Lyndsay Hedman, who will be a junior at Central High School. 

"It's for a good cause," said Sgt. Chris Hunt of the police department. "Unfortunately (domestic violence is) a larger issue than many people may be aware of."

The mural depicts the black silhouette of a policeman with a glowing yellow badge holding an umbrella over a young Lakota girl in a colorful ribbon skirt during a rainstorm — an image meant to convey that police can help protect families from domestic violence situations.

The rain is illustrated with long thin lines of navy, light blue and white paint falling to the ground and white raindrops bouncing off the top of the umbrella. The word "community" is painted in large, vertical purple letters to the right of the officer while a purple domestic violence ribbon and the word "together" is painted in red to the left of the girl.

The project is a collaboration between Youth Voices in Prevention (Youth VIP), the Rapid City Police Department, Working Against Violence (WAVI), Youth and Family Services, and other organizations, said Ramona Herrington, a program coordinator with Youth VIP.

Youth VIP, funded by the Centers for Disease Control, is a youth-led organization that fights against sexual violence, Herrington said. The group has created other Art Alley murals and school posters about consent and suicide prevention, conducts research and gives speeches about sexual violence, and learns about healthy relationships, how to encourage friends to get help or intervene when necessary.

The idea to create a mural with the Rapid City police came from Derek Smith, the community engagement coordinator at the Rapid City Arts Council who works with Youth VIP. 

Smith said he wanted to "create trust" between the police and community and "unity can be seen and be represented in a very big way" with a large mural. 

Once Smith proposed the idea and both the youth groups and police department came on board, youth and officers met to brainstorm designs for the painting. 

"More often than not when we respond to a domestic violence incident, it's not the first time the incident has ever occurred, but it may be the first time that police have been called," said Hunt. 

He said officers are able to help people before an unhealthy relationship becomes physical by connecting people with community nonprofits and arriving to "keep the peace" when moving out of a dangerous living situation. 

Hunt said it can be particularly difficult for men to admit they are victims of domestic violence. But, he said, there's "no shame" in men or women asking for help. 

"We're a phone call away," Hunt said. "We want to help, and we want to be able to offer the resources that we have in this city and the partnerships that we've made to try to resolve situations, get people out of dangerous homes."

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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