Advocate Safehouse Project provides needed services in the Valley
The Advocate Safehouse Project is the only resource in the Roaring Fork Valley that provides housing for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. This weekend the Glenwood Springs-based nonprofit hosted Luna Fest, a film festival of short films by, for, and about women. The goal was to spread awareness about domestic abuse in the valley.
Almost 300 hundred people attended the film festival on Saturday, held in the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. It’s the 8th year of the fundraiser for the Advocate Safehouse Project and the event has grown annually.
The six short films screened all have women filmmakers and covered of breast cancer, equal rights, and gender identity. Sarah Buckley is theCommunity Education Advocate for ASP, she says the upliftingmessage of the film festival helps add positivity to the dark issue her organization addresses daily.
“It can be very negative, and a very down topic but something like this where the films can be empowering, this really hones it in and shows not only women but men too what the possibilities are”
The festival is also an opportunity to educate the public about a very private issue. Educational literature and pamphlets were handed out along with the free popcorn- including a checklist of indicators that a relationship might be abusive. Questions such as
Does your partner...
- Embarrass you or call you derogatory names?
- Stop you from seeing friends and family?
- Intimidate you with weapons or threaten to hurt themselves?
“It depends a lot on the education you have and a lot of self awareness,” says Buckley. “Being able to notice those red flags or building that self esteem up where it’s ‘No! I'm not going to do that.’”
In 2014 the Advocate Safehouse Project received 258 calls to it’s 24 hour help line. Those conversations can range from someone who is in immediate danger to someone who just needs to talk about their situation, something that is often easier to discuss with a stranger than with friends. During the course of the year the nonprofit saw 438 clients and provided more than 40 survivors with temporary housing.
But, it’s hard to collect a full set of data about domestic abuse in the Roaring Fork Valley. For one, according to ASP executive director Julie Olson, the different organizations involved - law enforcement, non profits, and the judiciary system, all use different methods to count cases. Additionally, the nature of the abuse being a private crime relies on victim to self report - something that is very hard to do with the on-going danger of an abusive household.
And, then there is the shame of admitting to others that you are a victim.
“Some people might look at you and say ‘well why didn’t you just leave?’” said Olson. “I like to say this to people… let’s say you are in a relationship and there is no abusiveness at all, how long did it take for you to end that relationship was it instantaneously? No. There is lots of reasons why. There’s kids, there’s religion, in this valley it could be as simple as housing”
ASP also hosts support groups to help facilitate connection for victims who may think they are the only ones going through an abusive situation. But in fact, according to Steve Aurand, the victim witness program director for the district attorney's office:
“Domestic violence is definitely the most common crime that we have in our judicial district here and we have quite a few cases that are filed through the year.”
One in four women in Colorado will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime, but those acts are vastly underreported, and even cases that make it to court do not always result in a trial. The most common criminal penalties include supervised probation and counseling. The first thing Buckley says she would tell a loved one who is experiencing abuse is:
“ I believe you. Because a lot of times people like to question whether or not that actually happens. So I would say I believe you, and it’s not your fault.”