By Cindy Brown
Community Against Violence (CAV) has been helping make Taos safer for 40 years. “CAV was created when community members came together in a grassroots effort to address the devastation of domestic and sexual violence,” says Executive Director Malinda Williams. “Our community has supported this work for the last 40 years. Now we are celebrating our work together; this is truly the community’s success!”
In 1978, two independent groups of concerned community members created two separate non-profits: the “Battered Women’s Project” (BWP) to address domestic violence, and the “Community Against Rape” (CAR) to address sexual violence. Each volunteer group set up crisis response systems where people could call for help. Volunteers provided assistance, offering shelter in their homes, rides to the shelter in Santa Fe, and help accessing medical care.
Shelter established and non-profits coming together
In 1991, BWP opened a short-term crisis intervention shelter in a two-bedroom trailer. The next year, BWP and CAR merged to form one entity called Community Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, which was later shortened to Community Against Violence (CAV).
Together with the Town of Taos, CAV applied for federal HUD Supportive Housing Grant funds to build a permanent new facility with emergency and transitional housing for the growing needs. With more than a million dollars awarded, a new facility for adults and children was constructed and opened in 1997.
CAV continues to provide 24-hour hotline and crisis intervention services, and support and follow up services for people impacted by domestic and sexual violence. Services also include: case management, parenting support groups, financial literacy, subsidized transitional housing, along with legal and medical advocacy.
Services for children
From their early days, CAV knew children witnessing violence were deeply impacted. But the effects were not as well-understood as they are now. Seeing this need, in 1993, CAV hired a trained therapist to help. Since then, CAV’s counseling program has sustainably grown to provide confidential individual and group counseling free of charge.
In 1997, the Children’s Saferoom was created to respond to child abuse and neglect. That program evolved into the Northern New Mexico Children’s Advocacy Center (NNMCAC) now serving seven counties in north central New Mexico through two additional satellite locations.
In addition, CAV is focused on preventing the abuse that creates the need for these emergency services. “It is important to have the community involved with prevention. This is a community that cares and is willing to have the hard conversations,” says Williams.
CAV’s prevention program is provided in most grades in nearly all area schools. This is possible because of ongoing support and openness from local schools for this type of programming, which is quite unusual in New Mexico and across the nation.
Prevention also includes works with child-serving organizations to help provide information and assistance in establishing policies and programs to keep kids safe in our community. Programming combines national best practices, principles developed by the Centers for Disease Control, and unique local needs. CAV was excited with the New Mexico Department of Health’s recent evaluation results showing CAV’s prevention programming is outperforming national evidence-based programming.
CAV’s programming also includes “CHANGES” groups for men and women who have used power and control behaviors. “These groups focus on accountability. It’s a 52-week state-accredited program,” explains Rachel Cox, CAV clinical director. “The group model is a best practice and has proven to be the most successful model. CHANGES is non-punitive and non-shaming. It focuses on exploring values and changing behavior. When participants see their behavior hurts not only their partners and children, but also themselves and the whole community, they begin to see and act in new ways,” said Cox.
Radiothon – Each October, the community comes together to support CAV through a day-long Radiothon on KTAOs radio station. Callers phone in to make donations, share why they give, or thank CAV for the difference they have made in their lives.
Thrift Store – For over 20 years, the community has supported families served by donating items and shopping at CAV’s Thrift Store. Families served can also access needed items free of charge. The funds raised through the store continue to support CAV programs.
Craft Shows – CAV sponsors arts and craft shows in July, August, and November to help raise funds and awareness. Often their booths feature the iconic UFO-cow sign “Cows Against Violence” T-shirts and other merchandise providing a light-hearted conversation starter, which invites people to learn more.
Events like these help raise funds to support the $2.8 million operations costs and brings the discussion of this violence out into the light. “Secrecy is one of the biggest tools used by abusers to control their partners,” explains Williams. “When the problem is out in the open and can be discussed, offenders know they can’t get away with blaming the survivor or making them feel like the abuse is their fault.”
Evolving and growing
CAV continues to evolve by working with the community and survivors to find out what is needed to help families continue to stabilize and thrive. “For the past 40 years, we have been learning what works and what makes people have hope and be safer. We ask: What do you need? How can we help?” says Cox “And we continue to monitor and improve services. We want to be flexible so as we discover what works best, so we can continue to improve.”
The organization plans for future expansion as they see which services are most needed. They hope to provide increase transitional community-based housing and grow the prevention program.
The staff emphasizes their services are open to anyone who needs them, including female, male, and transgender adults and children. The services are free and confidential and provided in English, Spanish, and other languages when needed. There are no income qualifications or identification needed. They say “We help people rebuild their lives in small steps. We want to be a place of reflection and empowerment for everyone.”
For more information
Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) offers FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services, call CAV’s 24-hour crisis line at 575-758-9888. TaosCAV.org