Federal grant to help fight domestic violence | CraigDailyPress.com

Federal grant to help fight domestic violence

Joshua Roberts

— It’s an unsettling reality for Advocates Crisis-Support Services, an area nonprofit agency designed to aid victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, that times are busy.

An early look at the numbers for 2007 reveal the agency has served more clients in the first nine months of this year than all of 2006.

“It’s always distressing when the numbers go up,” Advocates Director Pat Tessmer said. “You have to watch the numbers. If it continues, I would start to become more distressed. It would then be the norm and not the trend.”

Formed in 1980, Advocates provides assistance to between 375 and 500 victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and crimes against people each year.

However, despite the gloom this year’s increased client number represents, there is positive news for Advocates and the clients it serves.

And that news is twofold.

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The agency recently received word that it was granted a two-year, $344,000 grant from the Office on Violence Against Women, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The grant – titled the Rural Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Child Abuse Enforcement Assistance Grant – is designed to improve services to rural victims and children, and develop a coordinated response to reports of domestic violence.

The money will be used to implement recommendations in the agency’s domestic violence and safety accountability audit, a critical examination and evaluation of assistance response that began in 2003.

Advocates partnered with the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence in conducting the audit, a first in state history.

Recommendations that will be put into place through the federal grant money include hiring a domestic violence and sexual assault resource officer and a shelter manager, sponsoring a community-wide awareness campaign and offering teen violence prevention education.

“We feel really fortunate,” Tessmer said of Advocates receiving the grant award. “This was one of the most competitive years.”

Although the grant money is important, Tessmer said it is program-specific. The grant doesn’t mean Advocates is immune to the usual financial struggles and constraints of a nonprofit agency, she said.

“It doesn’t mean we’re rich,” Tessmer said. “We’re like any nonprofit – there is always a much greater need than there is funding available.”

The second piece of forward progress for Advocates is the opening of its shelter, a 10-bed home in an undisclosed Moffat County location. The shelter will largely serve women and children who need housing because of domestic violence.

Tessmer said the shelter should be operational by late October or early November.

This month marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In past years, Advocates has conducted events or campaigns in recognition of the month. This year, all agency efforts have been aimed at getting the shelter up and running.

“We’re just working really hard to get it open,” Tessmer said, “and we’re really close.”

Mary Beth Buchanan, acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women, said domestic violence invades the public lives of men, women and children, and affects the lives of those around them.

“These behaviors – whether physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological – continue to occur in all homes, regardless of education, income-level or geography,” Buchanan said in a statement regarding awareness month.

“I encourage all individuals and groups to use October : to help raise awareness. : We must join together to address the causes of this crime so that each and every home can be a place of peace and safety.”

Buchanan encouraged people to show support for domestic violence victims by getting involved with state and local programs.

“At OVW, we believe working together to end the violence is the first step,” she said. “We are all agents of change, whether we work locally in the community, or as part of a large government agency.”

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.