MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO is talking a lot about domestic abuse this week — and a group that is providing safety for the many who endure it in Minnesota.

SafeJourney is a program that works primarily out of North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, but they will help anyone who is scared.

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One of the volunteers is Barb Daniels, and for her, this mission to show victims a way out is personal.

It was May of 1995. Her husband’s sister, Mary Jane, was about to graduate from Augsburg College. A mother of three boys, she was doing something for herself.

She and her husband were separated, but Barb did not recognize the problems back then.

“There were all the classic signs, but we didn’t know them,” Barb said. “He isolated her, he didn’t want her coming to family functions, he controlled the money, he wouldn’t let the kids be involved in sports,” Barb said.

He dropped the kids off at her house the morning of her graduation.

“That Sunday morning she went to pick them up and he had left them at the house and he killed her, and then he killed himself,” Barb said.

When police went to tell Mary Jane’s parents, they were already at Augsburg, waiting for her to cross the stage.

Barb and her husband took custody of the three boys, adding to their own two.

“Second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade is what we started school that year with,” she said.

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The boys did well, and they blended in well with the family.

“They’ll tell people that they’re cousins but they call each other brothers,” she said. “They’re very close, they’re very, very close and it’s really neat.”

But she wondered why Mary Jane never talked about what was happening.

“It was the night [of] O.J. Simpson and the white Blazer, and we sat there with a glass of wine and she never said a word — and that would’ve been a perfect opportunity right there. It was just she and I,” Barb said.

When life slowed down, Barb started volunteering with SafeJourney. She was on-call 24/7 to help victims who did not feel safe and needed an escape. She did it for Mary Jane.

“If somebody would have said something to her, that would’ve given that opportunity to open the door, so with SafeJourney that gives people that opportunity,” Barb said.

She says Mary Jane’s boys have grown into men, and their children call her “Grandma.”

“They’ve just done amazingly well in their lives. They’re all very successful and great men,” she said.

SafeJourney provides 24/7 support for anyone who calls and does not feel safe. Any donation goes a long way. A safety kit costs about $100 to assemble, which includes a new cellphone and gift cards for gas and groceries.

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If you would like to help them with those kits, or find out more about what SafeJourney does, click here. And click here to visit WCCO’s Accomplish MN page.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield