How One Colorado Springs Nonprofit Is Handling Domestic Violence Stressors Heightened By The Pandemic

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4min 36sec
Courtesy of TESSA
TESSA provides resources for people experiencing domestic violence in El Paso and Teller Counties.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. TESSA is a Colorado Springs-based organization that provides resources for people experiencing domestic violence.

The agency said 35 domestic violence calls are made a day to the Colorado Springs police department.

KRCC's Elena Rivera spoke with Anne Markley, TESSA's CEO, about her work and adapting to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Interview Highlights

On what inspired Markley's work:

"I grew up here [in Colorado Springs] locally. During my high school years, I had a best friend who definitely suffered at the hands of a violent boyfriend. And at that point in my life, I felt like I was 16 years old, do I speak out? What am I supposed to do? What are my bounds? Where are you supposed to go?

So when I got older, and knew that there were resources there, it was really a calling for me to be able to provide help and support to individuals that needed it because I saw what that did to my friend."

On adapting to provide services over the phone and on telehealth platforms during the coronavirus pandemic:

"I look back to the end of February, beginning of March. We did have a meeting, you know, worst-case scenario. And then when the worst-case scenario played out, I do feel like we were prepared to a point, in that we were very quickly able to transition into remote working environment.

It's not been easy. Our advocates like being able to obviously have that one-on-one connection with the individuals that we serve. Having to do that in a remote environment — having to do advocacy over the phone or counseling over a telehealth platform, that isn't the same. And so that has provided some struggles for our advocates, just because that connection that they make with the clients we serve is so crucial to them.

Also, we're talking about ways that we can continue to take care of ourselves, so that we can still provide for our community. We are the only provider of confidential victim services in El Paso and Teller County. If any of us go down, we can't provide services to our community. And so being able to work in a remote environment and keep ourselves healthy and safe, it has been really important."

On isolation worsening domestic violence situations:

"When we were really in those Stay-at-Home orders, that isolation created an environment where people felt like they couldn't leave. It was really important when the state came out and said, in issues of domestic violence, you can leave, you are free to leave, there are places to go.

But when you are basically being told to stay home, a tactic that offenders often use is isolation. And so here, they're essentially being told that you can be isolated. So making sure that the community really understood that in those instances, you don't have to stay home. There are places there are resources for you."

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call TESSA's 24-hour safe line at 719-633-3819 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. More information and resources on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's website.