Ten years, working for
a more peaceful Pagosa

“Just when he placed me on top of a pedestal, he threw me in the thorns …”

This is the message painted on a T-shirt in small black letters by a Pagosa survivor of violence, about her experiences. This T-shirt and others hang from a clothesline in the Pagosa Springs Community Center, as part of the national Clothesline Project, to remind people of the plight of victims of abuse.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month and, what’s more, this year, 2008, marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP). For these reasons and for many more, there is no time like the present to turn our community’s attention to the violence that women and children in our town still experience every day, despite years of national and local effort to eradicate domestic abuse.

This year, as in every year since 1987, the president of the United States issued a statement highlighting the issue of domestic violence and asking the country for help in bringing peace to American homes.

“Our Nation has a moral obligation to work to prevent domestic violence and address its brutal and destructive effects,” President George Bush wrote in a statement this month. “During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we underscore our commitment to helping individuals across our country who face such devastating violence.” President Bush, along with citizens across the nation hope that this month in particular, every American will “reach out to victims of domestic violence and take action to make ending domestic violence a national priority.”

It is this very goal that has driven the employees and volunteers of ACVAP for 10 years. This year to date, ACVAP has served over 350 clients. That breaks down to an average of 43 clients each month from January to September 2008.

Since ACVAP was created in 1998, thousands of clients have received services ranging from court advocacy, to family care, to financial support.

The primary mission of ACVAP is to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and to ensure victims’ rights are exercised and needs met.

Through the support of grants, donations, fund-raising efforts and volunteers, ACVAP provides immediate crisis intervention, court advocacy, emergency transportation to safe shelters, advocates to assist with other community agencies and supportive organizations, information and referrals and speakers and trainers to provide community education. ACVAP also works to raise awareness in Pagosa about domestic violence, teen dating violence and sexual abuse. During the month of October, this task becomes more important than ever.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Nonviolence movements are fortified by strong networks of people. And so the goal of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to reinforce the relationships between victims, people working to end violence, and the general public.

In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. That same year the first national toll-free hotline was begun. In 1989 the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress, according to the NCADV.

Here in Pagosa, to mark this month of awareness, ACVAP is participating in The Clothesline Project.

The purpose of this visual display is to bear witness to violence against women and children.  Victims, friends and family and volunteers in solidarity with victims decorate T-shirts to represent a particular woman’s or child’s experience.

According to The Domestic Violence Project, the purpose of the Clothesline Project is four-fold: 1) To bear witness to the survivors as well as the victims of the war against women; 2) To help with the healing process for people who have lost a loved one or are survivors of this violence; 3) To educate, document and raise society’s awareness of the extent of the problem of violence against women; and, 4) To provide a nationwide network of support, encouragement and information for other communities starting their own Clothesline Projects. 

You can see the decorated T-shirts hanging from their clothesline at the Pagosa Springs Community Center.

For those citizens wishing to go above and beyond simply being aware of the problem of intimate partner abuse, they can train to be a crisis advocate for ACVAP. A six-session training will educate volunteers about the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual abuse, as well as the psychological effects of being a victim in a crisis and how to help diffuse the worst of these as an advocate.

If you’re interested in learning more about the ACVAP Crisis Advocate program and training, call Karen Hatfield at 264-9075, Ext. 2.

For more general information about ACVAP and the services it offers, call 264-9075, Ext. 1, or visit www.acvap.org.

This month, and all year long, ACVAP asks you to join in the support of the rights of all people to live in peace and dignity.