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Meet Violence Free Colorado

Through this regular feature, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) will be introducing you to our member coalitions. Read the rest of our Meet A Coalition features here.

Meet Violence Free Colorado

What is it like to do domestic violence work in Colorado?

Our Coalition staff are honored to work on behalf of the more than 40 domestic violence advocacy organizations across our vast state. Home to the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountain Range (Mt. Elbert) as well as being a part of the Great Plains, Colorado’s unique geography gives it its beauty, but can also create a sense of isolation in many communities. Violence Free Colorado helps to bridge programs and the work done on behalf of survivors, provides opportunities for advocates to come together to learn and network, and gives survivors and advocates a unified voice among decision makers and funders. Housing Program Manager, Stevi Gray, explains, “It’s rewarding to develop new partnerships to broaden advocacy to include long term options for safety and stability, not just the emergency service piece.”

What impact does your unique Colorado context have on this work?

Colorado’s rural/urban divide is one example of how our unique state context impacts our work. More than 10% of Colorado’s population lives in a rural area. Says Violence Free Colorado’s Program Manager, Pat Tessmer, “Rural culture is a difficult concept for urban people to grasp as urban culture tends to have broader community and social norms. [For example], anonymity within a community is a foreign concept in rural communities but is widely experienced in urban areas.” About half of Violence Free Colorado staff is comprised of those who have worked in rural communities. Continues Pat, “When leadership or training is provided by rural people for rural people it is usually the most successful way of developing collective action to advance [this movement].”

Colorado’s high cost of living is another consideration in our ongoing work for long term survivor safety and autonomy. A sudden influx of new residents, rising land prices, building regulations that protect views in mountain towns, and a law that eased lawsuits against developers for shoddy construction, are all reasons that have made it difficult to finance units for lower income homebuyers and has left Colorado unable to meet new demand or help those who’ve been displaced. Due to the continuing and rising need for permanent and affordable housing for survivors of domestic violence, Violence Free Colorado developed its Housing Program to provide training and technical assistance on sheltering, housing, and homelessness issues as they relate to domestic violence. Find out more about our housing program.

What are the biggest barriers that survivors face in Colorado?

Of course, we’ve already covered housing. Along with that, overall cost of living, especially in Colorado’s resort mountain communities coupled with low wages, creates a challenging economic reality for survivors trying to find autonomy and safety if they leave. In many areas of the state, language and cultural access is also limited.

Says our TA Specialist, Jacque Morse, “I love going on site to programs to develop personal relationships with advocates,” so that Coalition staff can get a real feel for the unique challenges faced by each community, and work with them to address them on a local and statewide level.

What’s happening in Colorado that you’re excited about? Proud of?

This year, Violence Free Colorado helped to pass HB 1398 (extending the Statute of Limitations on civil actions against abusers), which represents the first time in the United States that traumatic brain injury was linked directly to domestic violence in legislation.

Additionally, and to continue the work we began with HB 1322 (which made it safer on the front end for domestic violence Survivors to seek medical help by not requiring the medical provider to report to law enforcement without the consent of the victim) Violence Free Colorado advocated to make it safer on the back end by improving privacy and confidentiality with health insurance companies.  Insurance companies in Colorado will soon no longer be required to send an explanation of benefits (EOB) to the policy holder but instead to the patient upon their request. This means that the patient is the one in control of who knows their medical treatment history, and that victims of DV can obtain medical care without alerting the abuser/policyholder where, when, and that they sought treatment.

Are there any champions in Colorado that you’d like to thank or celebrate for their record or work on domestic violence? 

While we could fill a book with individuals doing great work in Colorado around the issue of domestic violence, we’d like to highlight our current Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, for her support of Violence Free Colorado, particularly her stewardship of the Stand Up Colorado Prevention Campaign. Says AG Coffman, “We will impact people from childhood on through their lives because they’ll learn what a healthy relationship is and that love doesn’t mean someone hits them or locks them in a room or yells at them. Love is someone who goes and gets help and wants to improve that relationship and cares enough about the people around them to make a change. I think that we can have a long-term impact and a positive one in Colorado.”

Additionally, each year we recognize and promote excellence in domestic violence victim advocacy throughout Colorado by presenting to outstanding individuals and organizations a Purple Ribbon Award. In 2018, This year, we honored:

Emily Osan of the San Miguel Resource Center as the Outstanding Domestic Violence Victim Advocate

Flora Archuleta of San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center as the Outstanding Leadership in Victim Advocacy

Pam Maass of the Gold Law Firm as the Outstanding Community Ally

Alliance Against Domestic Abuse (AADA) in Salida as the Outstanding Domestic Violence Advocacy Organization

How is your coalition working to end domestic violence? 

Violence Free Colorado proudly launched Stand Up Colorado in October 2017. Stand Up Colorado is a statewide, collaborative, multi-year project that goes beyond raising awareness to alter behaviors and affect long-term social change. The Campaign will prevent future relationship violence by shaping an informed, zero-tolerance public attitude that inspires individual and community action. We have campaign site communities throughout the state working on local initiatives, and we’ve partnered with all of Colorado’s professional sports teams to spread the message. Check out some of the commercials being aired on channels statewide:

If your coalition was a musician or music group, who would you be and why? 

If we were a music group (unlikely given how reluctant any of us are to even sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a fellow staff member for fear of anyone finding out how tone deaf we are), we’d love to play a concert with some great feminist artists/groups like Pussy Riot, Le Butcherettes, Lorde, or Ani DiFranco. Maybe one day, we can have a Stand Up Colorado benefit concert with one of these activist musicians at Red Rocks Amphitheater!

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?  

This summer, in honor of our 40th year, we transitioned from the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence to Violence Free Colorado, a name that reflects the future we are dedicated to achieving. Violence Free Colorado strives to end relationship abuse by taking bold, courageous actions and leading in partnership with survivors, heeding their experiences, and amplifying their voices.

Learn more about Violence Free Colorado: