Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet announced Thursday that Frisco-based Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault has received a $508,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development. The funds will be used to buy a new site for an emergency shelter that can accommodate between 15 and 18 victims at a time.
"Organizations like Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault make our communities safer and stronger by supporting survivors of sexual assault," Bennet said in a release. "This new permanent emergency shelter will give victims in Summit County a place to find help and begin the healing process."
"This loan will provide us with a much nicer and larger shelter to better serve the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault here in Summit County," said Amy Jackson, executive director of Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault. "In the past, we've had to make do with what we've been able to piece together with rental properties. The USDA loan will allow us to purchase our own shelter, which is a huge and exciting endeavor for our organization."
For more than three decades, Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault has supported victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and trauma. It opened its first safe house in 1996 for women and children seeking refuge from battering and abuse. It also provides safe housing to men in local hotels.
Last month, Bennet joined his Senate colleagues to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which advances efforts to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking through a combination of victim services and prevention and education programs. VAWA contained Bennet's SAFER Act that will help reduce the backlog of rape kits by helping state and local governments conduct audits of rape kits in law enforcement storage facilities by increasing available funds for crime labs to process those kits. The bill was signed into law earlier this month.
The USDA's Rural Development office supports rural communities with loans, loan guarantees and grants that are used for essential public facilities, such as water and sewer systems, housing, health clinics, emergency service facilities and electric and telephone service.