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SPAN raising funds for domestic violence shelter serving Boulder County

Daily Camera - 9/14/2018

Sept. 14--Learn more

To learn more about services provided by Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence or how you can give to its fundraising campaign, call 303-449-8623 or visit https://www.safehousealliance.org/.

Natalie Condon doesn't know much about the people who eat the vegetables she gives away from Isabelle Farm. She donates four shares a year, dozens of pounds of farm-fresh melons and carrots and kale. But she has never set foot in the kitchen where they are prepared, never met the women and children who eat them.

She doesn't even know all that much about the organization to whom she donates. She only knows she supports its mission: To help mothers and children who are "in a tough spot."

"Parenthood is really, really tricky," Condon said. "Parenthood in the case of (being a) victim of abuse ... You can really make a difference in their lives and in their recovery."

The organization is SPAN, the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, which has been serving victims of domestic violence in Boulder County for 40 years. And the secrecy is by design. Condon doesn't know where the shelter that accepts her produce is; its location is unknown, to keep abusive spouses or partners from finding their victims. She doesn't know who cooks and eats her donation, because anonymity is a must to keep people alive.

The secrecy saves lives. But it also makes it difficult to raise awareness, said Anne Tapp, SPAN executive director. It keeps the issue in the dark, where it so often dwells anyway.

"There are 1,800 law enforcement responses to domestic violence in Boulder County each year," Tapp said. "At most, 1 in 10 are reported. It's a significant epidemic, and yet we only talk about it when these big, horrible tragedies happen." When someone gets killed.

It makes it hard to raise money, too. Money to help people get back to work, to school. To clothe and feed them while at the shelter. To help them find housing, which in Boulder, costs a lot. Victims of domestic violence have often lost careers and have no access to cash; it's not uncommon for abusers to control the family finances. By leaving, victims are often left with nothing.

"Even affordable housing in Boulder is in quotes 'affordable,'" Tapp said. "Survivors are competing with people who aren't in crisis."

Right now, SPAN has a simpler goal: Raise about $200,000 for a renovation of the shelter, which is 10 years old. About 4,000 people have walked on the carpet. Thousands of meals have been serviced in the kitchen. The nonprofit hopes to raise enough to start a capital resources fund, "so we're not waiting 10 years to make upgrades."

There's no gift too small, Tapp said: "We're encouraging people to give what they can financially, whether its $5 for a can of paint, or $5,000 for new flooring."

The capacity of the shelter itself is an issue, too. People are turned away frequently when the safe house is full. The fix, Tapp said, isn't more room: it's more education.

"Our vision is to look forward to intervention and early detection. The goal is to reduce prevalence rather than build more shelters."

One of the ways SPAN is educating Boulder now is through anti-bullying campaigns at schools. Because, as Tapp puts its, "abusers are just bullies with a captive audience."

SPAN also is working on bystander intervention, on teaching people to call out their friends, co-workers or family. Patterns of controlling and belittling behavior often present themselves long before physical violence takes place. If we can learn to gently interrupt pre-cursors to abuse, Tapp said, we can avoid more deaths.

"There's still culturally this resistance to getting into other people's business," she said. "But we don't have to wait until an incident becomes deadly. There are things we can change."

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, castles@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/shayshinecastle

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(c)2018 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

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