During the daylong Community Against Violence (CAV) Radiothon in October, 400 people from Taos took the mic and called in on air to tell their community about what had happened to them — and how CAV made a difference in their lives. Highlighting the broadcast of stories from survivors was an important way for community members to relate to CAV support and services.
“By having people tell their stories around domestic violence and sexual abuse, we are engaging the community in a conversation about these issues,” said Malinda Williams, executive director of the nonprofit organization. “Many times, survivors’ voices have been silenced by their abuser. CAV is a place where survivors are heard and supported to find their own voice, and the radiothon is great platform for them.”
It is also a platform for all the Taos community and all those who have been touched by domestic and sexual violence — victims, survivors, offenders, medical professionals, attorneys — to begin to speak out and play a part in the fight against these crimes.
“Domestic violence is a learned behavior that occurs by exerting power and control and manipulating trust,” says Rachel Cox, clinical director at CAV. “One way we can stop this is by talking about it. On a day like the radiothon when everyone is talking about this, including business owners and community members, we send a message to survivors and their offenders that our community supports them making positive changes in their homes.”
It’s been 38 years since a small handful of anonymous women gathered in a house in Taos and made a stand against violence in the home. The town had been rocked by five domestic violence-related deaths, and these women realized that something had to be done.
“They said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and opened their homes to shelter the victims,” recalled Williams. “That made Community Against Violence one of the earliest domestic violence shelter programs in the country.”
Nearly four decades have passed by “in the blink of an eye” — an indication that the development of CAV programs have become significant for the whole community of Northern New Mexico.
Transitional Housing Program
Most of the 600 people who contact CAV in a year take advantage of the organization’s daily programs of support, counseling, child care, medical and legal advice, and community outreach. However, some of them simply need a shelter — a safe place to stay while working to change their lives.
That critical need has produced CAV’s Transitional Housing Program, winner of the “Inspiring Idea of 2014” by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. A small but significant number of the women, men and children who call CAV or knock on its doors need protection; they need a place to stay, to catch their breath and to look to a brighter future.
“We see the Transitional Housing Program as a way for survivors to explore another way of living,” explained Cox. “That effort comes directly from the client.”
CAV has emergency beds for 19 people at their headquarters. Many are women and children. While there, they participate in CAV counseling and support groups, get the medical or legal help they need, and to work toward a stronger, safer future for themselves and their families.
The ultimate goal of the program is to get these survivors back out into the community — once they feel safer, stronger and more stable. To do that, CAV has leases on seven homes in the community — enough to house 10-12 people. Rent is initially subsidized through CAV, but the goal is to have the tenants either take over the lease payments or move into another home.
CAV also provides an advocate for each client in the program, making home visits and keeping them in contact with CAV while they work on themselves.
“We’ve been able to nurture relationships with the landlords, who understand the benefit of this program and appreciate what CAV is doing,” said Cox.
For Williams and the CAV staff, the only recognition they seek is from the clients who arrive in distress and leave feeling safe, and with the tools they need for a healthier, safer life in the future.
“The best outcome for us is creating a safe relationship for a family as a whole, no matter how it is achieved,” said Williams. “People who come to us can break from the patterns of violence they experience and begin to take back their voices to build a better life for themselves.”
“We are truly creating a community against violence in Taos, not just our organization and the people who come to it,” Williams added. “The message is that domestic and sexual violence is not part of the Taos community. It’s not the fault of the people who come to us, and they have the capacity to change, to make their own choices.”
To support CAV, donators can mail
a tax-deductible gift to
945 Salazar Rd., Taos, NM, 87571,
or call the offices at (575) 758-8082
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