susan utech

Fabiola Milla/Flickr

As recently as the 1970s, domestic abuse was seen as a private matter between a husband and wife.

If the police were called, it wasn't unheard of for them to just suggest the offender "take a walk around the block" and cool off.

From that societal climate, beginning in the 1980s, Duluth has become an international innovator in the way communities keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable.

Two weeks before Christmas, 22 women and 25 children slept at Safe Haven Shelter.

Safe Haven's 39-bed shelter is overflowing, and as the largest direct service provider to domestic violence victims in the Twin Ports, runs at about 92% capacity all year long.

But beyond the toys and presents the community and Safe Haven are able to provide, what these families need more than anything is emotional support - "the greatest gift."