Housing and Domestic Violence are Indivisible

Written by Rob Murphy, MSW

Prior to the early 1970’s, few resources existed for women trapped in violent relationships, other than an informal network of people who accepted fleeing survivors into their homes. This underground movement led to the creation of the first domestic violence shelter programs. The new shelters programs struggled initially to find funding, as outdated ideas about domestic violence prevented survivors in shelters from being considered “homeless” by federal definition.

Cracks in that glass ceiling developed as states began to fund domestic violence programs through marriage license fees, and it was finally shattered at the federal level in 1984 with the passage of the Family Violence and Prevention Services (FVPSA) act; other resources slowly followed. Locally, a result of this was the incorporation of Advocates for Victims of Assault as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1985, after serving in a more grassroots capacity for several years. The first Advocates shelter was opened in 1996.

A limitation of the shelter movement has always been that shelters are meant for short-term, emergency stays. However, the economic and other effects of abuse are such that survivors are often left with no choice but to return to violent relationships in order to avoid continued homelessness. It is estimated that more than 80% of homeless women with children have experienced domestic violence prior to their homelessness. In as many as half of cases, domestic violence is a primary cause of homelessness. In how many other cases, we are left to wonder, are more immediate causes such as poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse ultimately connected to past domestic abuse?

Beginning in the 1990’s, and continuing today, demand for services has forced shelter programs into difficult positions. First, when shelters become overcrowded, triage is often employed that prioritizes survivors determined to be in the most immediate danger, or makes fairly subjective judgements about whether a person’s homelessness is directly connected to domestic violence, or is due to other circumstances. Those turned away often return to violent relationships or otherwise enter or continue a cycle of homelessness for which a major contributing factor was having been made a victim of abuse.

Second, a nationwide (and local) dearth of affordable housing means that survivors shelters have woefully limited options when it comes to moving out of shelter. Again, the results can be a return to violence and/or a cycle of homelessness. Locally, this has become an equal if not greater problem than lack of emergency shelter capacity.

Advocates for Victims of Assault is actively working to create more housing solutions for survivors. We are planning a re-start of in-house transitional housing assistance that was previously discontinued due to lack of funding, and collaborating with local partners to create other opportunities on a household-by-household basis. This is not enough under current conditions. It is our duty as members of this community to protect victims of violence, and we cannot claim to do so if we do not provide opportunities for them to stably and affordably house themselves. Let’s not allow specious arguments about the supposed nature and character of affordable housing recipients, or about the appropriate level of involvement of this or that government or corporate entity, to divert us from our responsibility to assist our neighbors, clients, employees, and constituents. Like it or not, to do so helps perpetuate cycles of violence, and stops the work of those trying to reduce or eliminate the effects of violence on this community in its tracks. Instead, let’s focus on making the most of the significant resources and opportunities that have been laid out before us.


Making an ImPACT Through Service

Making an ImPACT Through Service

By: Jessica Goncalves, HS-BCP

Jessica is new to our Summit Advocates team and relocated from the East Coast to serve our community in her role as an Education and Outreach Associate. 

              Two months before graduation, I found myself reflecting on the past four years of college. There was a bittersweet feeling because I accredit very much of my personal and professional growth at the University of Scranton. Meanwhile, I had already committed to a graduate program, a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I was sitting at my campus library when I received an email about registration for graduate classes; my heart sank. What am I missing? I was writing a reflection paper about Jesuit ideals and one especially resonated with me that day. Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., mentioned:  “we are called to be men and women of service for others.” Instantly I knew what I needed, I started doing research about committing to a year of volunteer service through AmeriCorps VISTA. Shortly after, I applied for an education and outreach position with Advocates for Victims of Assault. I was thrilled to find out I was selected and deferred my acceptance to graduate school. I had no idea that I was going to bring Scranton with me to Colorado, but I’ve learned that wherever I am in the world, Scranton is always with me; it is a part of who I am.

                The main reason why I choose to work at Advocates for Victims of Assault (AVA) was my previous volunteer experience in gender-based violence awareness and education at the Scranton. During my time at The University of Scranton, I was an active volunteer at the Jane Kopas Women’s Center (JKWC). I had become extremely empowered and inspired by the outreach programs conducted through JKWC. Towards the end of my sophomore year, I participated in my first Take Back The Night, a community-wide event promoting an end to sexual violence. After that event, I immediately applied to become a PACT presenter to help raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. PACT stands for Promoting Awareness of the College Transition. The fall of my junior year, I would go through an extensive training, learning how to facilitate important messages such as; healthy relationships, communication, consent, and sexual assault on college campuses to first-year students. It is required for all first-year students to attend a PACT presentation. The presentations occur in the first four weeks of school, which is considered to fall in the “red zone”. Red-zone is known as the time between move-in and fall break on college campuses. Unfortunately, studies have shown there are higher rates of sexual assaults on college campuses during this time.

               So I bet you are wondering, “What does PACT have to do with your work with Advocates?” Great question! After my on-site orientation, I was so excited to learn about our education program Peacemakers, a program that promotes empathy, anti-violence, and safety in our local elementary schools. Although I value this program, my mind kept buzzing: “What about middle school and high school students?” I brought this concern to our director, Rob Murphy. He loved the idea of giving presentations like PACT to students in our community. I created a proposal for a new program that would allow AVA to go into the schools to talk about healthy relationships to high school students. I found myself referencing back to my PACT brochure and the resources I gained from the JKWC. Rob and I recently met with a school counselor at Summit County High School to pitch our proposal. I am very excited to announce that Advocates will have the opportunity to present a healthy relationships presentation to Juniors and Seniors in early 2017. I am still in the beginning stages of solidifying our new program, but I am so grateful to have this opportunity. If you have any questions about this new project or are interested in volunteering, please feel free to contact me at VISTA@summitadvocates.org

To view the University of Scranton’s PACT brochure and to learn more about  PACT please visit: http://www.scranton.edu/studentlife/studentaffairs/womens-center/Royal%20P.A.C.T.shtml

To read more about AmeriCorps VISTA program please visit: https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista



Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc. started as a grass roots organization in 1979. One of the first victim service organizations in Colorado, “Advocates” provides holistic services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and assault. Advocates not only provides safe housing to victims, we also provide advocacy, legal advocacy in both the civil and criminal court systems, and access to local counselors and mental health providers. Advocates also strives to increase awareness through community outreach and education programs targeting the youth and adult citizens of Summit County.

Our community outreach efforts are designed to target all residents of Summit County. You are the members of our community that comprise our local juries and, in many cases, decide whether or not someone is either convicted or acquitted of a criminal allegation.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and there is no better time to reach out to you, our jurors, to try to break down some of the stigma and negative connotation associated with the idea of domestic violence, and to address some of the myths and truths regarding domestic violence. While we could never cover all aspects, nor expect you to read them over your morning coffee, here are some of the more pervasive myths about domestic violence:

Myth: If it is that bad, the victim would say something or leave them.
Truth: Domestic Violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the nation. Many factors including fear of leaving, seclusion and/or alienation from friends and family, and financial barriers prevent women and men from leaving an abusive relationship. Many abusers also use the children as a way to intimidate and control their victims. Additionally, fleeing an abusive relationship can be dangerous. Research suggests that victims are often in the most danger when they initially flee an abusive relationship.

Myth: The victim doesn’t look abused.
Truth: Emotional abuse is the most common form of domestic abuse and the use of threats, intimidation, guilt, isolation, use of immigration status, and minimizing or blaming behaviors is common among abusers.

Myth: It was just a one-time thing/something set them off.
Truth: Domestic violence is typically characterized by a pattern of behavior of controlling and abusive behavior that occurs over a period of time. While domestic violence doesn’t always occur in the same form, it usually involves recurring and escalating abuse, which follows a pattern, often referred to as the “Cycle of Violence.” The Cycle of Violence is characterized by the start of a “Tension Building” phase which many victims report as a feeling of “walking on eggshells.” This is typically followed by an abusive incident (emotional or physical). After the abusive incident there is usually a “Honeymoon” phase where it is common for the perpetrator to engage in acts of atonement and promises that the abuse will not occur again.

Myth: Only women are victims of domestic violence.
Truth: Although men may be in the statistical minority of domestic violence victims, men are the victims of domestic violence in both “opposite-sex” and “same-sex” relationships.

The reality is that one in four women are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime and almost half the murders are committed by an intimate partner (ncadv). We hope that by reaching out to you: our neighbors, friends, and jurors in Summit County, we can become a more educated jury pool and work toward a safer community.

More information can be found www.summitadvocates.org or on Facebook. If you or someone you know needs help, call our 24/7 hotline at 970-668-3906. Thank you to all our supporters for your generosity throughout the years.

Braden C. Angel
Braden served as a Deputy District Attorney in all counties of the Fifth Judicial District from 2007 until 2012. He is currently the Legal Advocate for Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc. and has practiced privately since 2012, focusing on victims’ rights.