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Live United: A victim’s cry for help being answered

Somewhere in our community, someone is desperately crying out for help.

It is too often a silent cry, because the person is afraid and doesn’t know where to turn for help. The Archuleta County Victims Assistance Program (ACAVP) is dedicated to aiding victims of domestic violence and is a United Way funds recipient for 2010.

ACAVP exists to provide emergency and other necessary services to primary and secondary victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or other types of victimization, caused by crime, sudden mishap or loss. It is also committed to empowering victims who wish to improve their life services with the skills and education to do so. Through prevention education and social change, it is hoped that the number of incidents of violence within the community can be reduced.

Domestic violence can be broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behavior by a partner or ex-partner who attempts to physically or psychologically dominate or harm the other person in the relationship. People of every race, ethnicity, culture and religion can be offenders, and domestic violence happens to both men and women and occurs in both opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships.

ACVAP provides comprehensive services to help keep victims and their dependents safe and to empower victims to improve their circumstances. A total of 445 victims were provided victim assistance services in 2009, with 2,476 contacts made to victims, or on their behalf, to other service providers.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence is a viable threat to our nation’s health status, and the key to prevention is focusing on the first time an abusive situation occurs. There are four main types of domestic violence:

• Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or other type of physical force or abuse.

• Sexual violence is forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent.

• Threats of physical or sexual violence include the use of words, gestures, weapons, or other means to communicate the intent to cause harm.

• Emotional abuse is threatening a partner or his or her possessions or loved ones, or harming a partner’s sense of self-worth. Examples are stalking, name-calling, intimidation, or not letting a partner see friends and family.

The overall Victim Assistance program is divided into two areas: Victim Advocacy Programs and Outreach and Education Programs. In Victim Advocacy Programs, there are five areas of concentration:

On-Scene Crisis Intervention: Advocates respond 24/7 to assist victims immediately following a crisis. Advocates are able to address a variety of needs a victim or victims may have, including safety planning, emergency housing and transportation.

Personal Advocacy: Rarely do victims need just one resource or one response to solve the issues they face. Comprehensive support services ensure a multitude of resources are made available including human services advocacy, domestic violence education, housing and employment advocacy, individual counseling and safety planning, and referral to other supportive services.

Court Advocacy: The Court Advocacy Program helps to assure that victims are informed, competent and effective participants in the legal system and are thereby able to safely achieve the remedies they seek. (The court advocacy program is the specific program that will be funded by the United Way for 2010.)

WISE Women Support Group: WISE (Women In Support of Each Other) Women Support Group meets bi-monthly to provide education and support for women who are victims. Support groups are proven effective in aiding victims in their recovery from many forms of trauma or harmful personal issues

Expressions Children’s Support Group: The Children’s Support Group coincides with the WISE Women’s Support Group to provide a safe haven for children to process their fears and the trauma they’ve witnessed, while learning alternatives to violence to solve problems.

ACVAP helps to reduce the incidents of violence in our community through prevention education and promotion of social change. In the Outreach and Education area, there are two areas of concentration: Youth Violence Prevention Education Project and the Community Outreach Program.

After presenting a session on sexual harassment to junior high students, two young girls disclosed an incident they encountered with four older men. Though tentative at first, the girls quickly learned that telling an adult was the right step. They received additional support and guidance from our prevention coordinator. Now equipped with the tools to respond safely, the girls feel empowered to know what to do.

Youth Violence Prevention Education Project: Comprehensive education services for youth ages 4-18, parents, teachers, school administration and personnel, and other youth workers to deconstruct myths surrounding domestic and sexual violence while providing youth practical tools to increase the safety of themselves and their peers.

Community Outreach Program: This program works to educate and promote public awareness to Archuleta County residents through media campaigns, professional presentations, consultation and educational seminars. The Community Outreach Program actively pursues opportunities to inform and educate local community groups and individuals, from general awareness building to specialized training workshops.

According to Carmen Hubbs, ACVAP director, “In 2009, over 1,200 youth, parents and youth workers participated in 137 violence prevention education presentations. I was especially heartened by the PSA (Public Service Announcement) on teen dating violence developed by students at the high school. I was speechless after seeing their video, and I am truly excited how ACVAP has grown to include teens and their voices in our mission to end interpersonal violence in our community.”

Hubbs also says that ACVAP volunteers are crucial to the overall success of the program and are always welcome. “Without their commitment, ACVAP would not be able to provide the level of support services and community activities detailed in the above programs,” said Hubbs. Volunteers are truly the heart of the organization and enable ACVP to move closer to its vision of a violence-free community. Anyone interested in volunteering, or exploring other ways to help Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program, can contact Hubbs at 264-9075.

Violence or abuse from anyone is always wrong, whether the person is a spouse, past spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, a date, a family member, an acquaintance or a stranger, and the victim is never at fault! Victims are truly not alone and can seek help from Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program at 264-9075. Call today if you are the victim of violence or if you know someone whom you think is being abused — a friend, family member, co-worker, client, patient or parishioner — please consider contacting ACVAP as soon as possible to discuss ways to safely help this person.