Amy Jackson: Safe nights program needs community support |

Amy Jackson: Safe nights program needs community support

Amy Jackson
Advocates for Victims of Assault

For $50, you can sponsor a night of shelter for someone in need through Advocates for Victims of Assault’s Safe Nights program

Summit County – Sarah, age 26, had been with her abusive husband for 10 years. After a period of separation and a subsequent reconciliation, his behavior continued to be erratic, verbally abusive and physically violent. Sarah felt she had to get away or the violence would continue to get worse.

Sarah came to the shelter with her three young children, two boys ages 5 and 8 and one daughter, age 3. While she was there, Sarah worked hard to find and maintain a job, get the kids to and from school and daycare, and access as many available community resources as possible.

On her days off, Sarah met with the Advocates to obtain case management and support. During these sessions, she learned the cycle of domestic violence, the red flags of an abusive relationship, and the effects of the exposure to the batterer’s violence on her three young children.

As a result of the advocacy support she received, Sarah was able to find affordable housing and moved from the shelter to a new apartment. With the Advocates’ guidance, she was able to file divorce paperwork and begin to move on with her life. By attending the free weekly domestic violence support group and making positive choices, Sarah was finally able to break free from the violence of her batterer and provide a safe home for herself and her children.

Since 1979, Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc. (“AVA”), has been helping people suffering from domestic abuse in Summit County. As the community has grown, it has expanded services to include victims of sexual assault, accidents, death of loved ones and other trauma. In 1996, it opened the first safe house, which has consistently provided shelter to women and children seeking refuge from abuse. AVA also provides safe housing to men in local hotels.

Each April, the AVA launches its Safe Nights Campaign, which encourages people to sponsor a night of shelter for $50. The campaign was successful in its first years but, in the past two years, pledges have dropped off. So the Advocates are appealing to the community during this time, hoping the community is looking for ways to give to families who are less fortunate than themselves.

In the past, women and children have stayed in the shelter for five to seven days. More recently, families have needed to stay for four to eight weeks because it is so difficult to transition into affordable housing here.

We’ve changed our policies because we understand that it’s impossible for someone who has been out of the job market to find a job in five to seven days – even for people working their very hardest. We have to set limits but, especially when children are involved, we feel committed to doing everything we can to help them transition into a safe place.

• In 2009, Advocates for Victims of Assault responded, on scene, in-person, to 122 crisis calls, to 24 sexual assaults and to 18 death calls. We provided emergency shelter to 25 women and 18 children for a total of 563 nights of shelter. We provided services to 450 victims of domestic assault. In 2009, our staff also provided 95 outreach and educational presentations to a total of 2058 participants.

• Approximately 40 volunteers take call after office-hours and during the weekend, allowing us to operate our 24-hour crisis hotline.

• Advocates provides services including: a 24-hour confidential crisis line, emergency shelter, individual counseling and women’s support groups, a free legal clinic, advocacy, information, referrals, prevention and education about domestic violence and sexual assault recovery assistance.

• Call (970) 668-3906 to sponsor a family for a night of shelter.

Amy Jackson is executive director of Advocates for Victims of Assault in Summit County.

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