Karen Chaney, foreground, teacher at a local alternative school, and Neil Folks, chairman of Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse's spiritual outreach program, listen to Pat Tessmer, Advocates - Crisis Support Services executive director, speak Wednesday at the Moffat County Public Safety Center. The meeting, which included representatives from Craig Police Department and local nonprofits, was designed to generate interest in an upcoming community education campaign about sexual assault, domestic violence and related crimes.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Karen Chaney, foreground, teacher at a local alternative school, and Neil Folks, chairman of Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse's spiritual outreach program, listen to Pat Tessmer, Advocates - Crisis Support Services executive director, speak Wednesday at the Moffat County Public Safety Center. The meeting, which included representatives from Craig Police Department and local nonprofits, was designed to generate interest in an upcoming community education campaign about sexual assault, domestic violence and related crimes.

Upcoming campaign to focus on violence prevention, awareness

Advocates plans to use recently awarded grant to fund undertaking

Simply responding isn't enough.

That's the stance one local group has taken against sexual assault, domestic violence and related crimes.

Advocates - Crisis Support Services plans to use a recently awarded $3,000 grant to launch a violence prevention and awareness campaign.

Its mission: to change attitudes and environments that contribute to violent crimes.

Funds for the campaign are provided by a partnership grant between Advocates, the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Craig Police Department and Moffat County Sheriff's Office.

These agencies saw signs that domestic violence and sexual assault were on the rise, said Pat Tessmer, Advocates executive director, which prompted them to include provisions for addressing these crimes in the grant.

"We thought, 'We've got to start doing something other than just responding to the calls," Tessmer said.

Advocates administrators, along with members of the Craig Police Department, Social Services and local nonprofit organizations, met Wednesday at the Moffat County Public Safety Center to jump-start a violence prevention and awareness campaign in Craig.

In coming weeks, Advocates plans to muster a committee that will carry out the campaign, which seeks to address the root causes of various crimes, ranging from domestic abuse and date rape to stalking and child abuse.

In many cases, Tessmer said, those factors include social norms that accept or ignore violent crimes.

The campaign aims to abolish those attitudes through various methods, including a widespread media campaign and community meetings.

At its core, the program is focused on making a preventative strike against a social ill that numbers show is on the rise.

Since becoming involved in Advocates in 1990, Tessmer has seen the number of people reporting sexual assault and domestic violence to her office increase sharply.

In Tessmer's first year, 125 people reported having been the victims of a violent domestic or sexual crime at least once. This year, that number has increased to 500.

Why the increase?

Tessmer doesn't know.

"People have been asking me that for 20 years," she said.

But she believes complacent attitudes towards these crimes may contribute to their apparent increase.

"I think we need to have people recognize this is not OK," she said.

Representatives from other organizations weighed in on the issue Wednesday.

Lyle Prather, Yampa Valley Psychotherapists counselor, said the campaign shouldn't portray only women and children as the victims of violent crimes.

"This is all directed toward women," he said after the group viewed some sample posters they could put up around town.

In his view, the campaign must be all-encompassing.

"I think if we're going to do a program like that, we need to make a broad (appeal), covering men and women, boys and girls, the elderly, the whole bit," he said.

Still, the committee could face roadblocks in combating violence, domestic and otherwise.

"I think there's really an anti-snitch mentality in Craig," said Karen Chaney, a teacher at an alternative school that is an extension of Moffat County High School.

Members present at the meeting agreed that more discussion was necessary to brainstorm issues the campaign would address, including definitions of domestic abuse.

A public meeting is scheduled at noon Dec. 9 to meet that end. Meeting location has yet to be announced. For more information about the campaign, call 824-9709.

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