Steamboat Springs High School students Rianne Marr, right, and Matthew McIntosh run through a skit during an Advocates Building Peaceful Communities training session. Advocates (formerly Advocates Against Battering and Abuse) received $20,000 this month from the Women's Foundation of Colorado. Part of the money will be used to train peer educators to go into the classrooms and teach other students about dating violence, sexual violence, bullying and harassment. The youth program will stretch across 15 months.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School students Rianne Marr, right, and Matthew McIntosh run through a skit during an Advocates Building Peaceful Communities training session. Advocates (formerly Advocates Against Battering and Abuse) received $20,000 this month from the Women's Foundation of Colorado. Part of the money will be used to train peer educators to go into the classrooms and teach other students about dating violence, sexual violence, bullying and harassment. The youth program will stretch across 15 months.

Grant will help serve youths

Advocates receives $20,000 to bolster its education program

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People who need counseling, referrals or other help with domestic problems can call Advocates Building Peaceful Communities at its 24-hour crisis line, 970-879-8888, or its office, 970-879-2034. The service is confidential and free.

— Youths in Routt County will get extra attention through a recent grant to Advocates Building Peaceful Communities.

The Steamboat Springs group received $20,000 this month from the Women's Foundation of Colorado. Advocates plans to use the money to train peer educators at high schools, take middle-school girls on an outdoor self-esteem-building trip and for other youth programs, Executive Director Diane Moore said.

"Advocates has had for a number of years a violence-prevention high school peer education program, so it's a continuation of that but really enhancing what we've done," Moore said.

The money came from an anonymous $80,000 donation to the Women's Foundation, according to a news release from the organization. That group approached Advocates about donating, Moore said.

"They contacted me and said, 'We've heard some nice things about your program, and we would like you to give us a contract letter for a program,'" she said.

The peer educators will be trained to go into classrooms and teach other youths about dating violence, sexual violence, bullying and harassment. The youth program will stretch across 15 months, Moore said.

Advocates plans to contract with Colorado Outward Bound to do a one-day outdoor event with the seventh-grade girls next spring, she said.

"The idea is empowering young females around self-esteem, good choices, peer pressure with the hope that some of that is related to choices we make as females in our lifetime," Moore said.

She hopes to find funds to do a similar program for the boys. She plans to speak with education experts to find out what other programs would be useful.

The money will be geared toward violence education at a time when calls have increased for Advocates, formerly Advocates Against Battering and Abuse.

"In 2008, our nights of shelter more than doubled, and most of that really became significant about August of 2008," Moore said.

Advocates defines a night of shelter as providing a bed for one person for one night. Housing a family of four for a night counts as four nights of shelter. The numbers increased from the end of 2008 through January and February, Moore said. March has returned to a more typical level.

"There was a time there in the fall where our shelter was full for more than three months, which has never occurred in the past, and we had family in condo and a family in a motel, all at the same time," she said. The Advocates shelter has nine beds.

Moore attributed the change partly to the stresses of the recession.

"I expect our numbers and our services to be significant this year, and clearly some of the stories we're hearing are changing: 'We're losing our home,' 'My husband just got laid off,'" she said.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office reported that it saw a 12 percent increase in domestic violence calls in 2008. Sgt. Miles DeYoung said there were 190 cases in 2008, compared with 169 cases in 2007.

"I would definitely say the economic situation is going to be a factor, and the unemployment rates," DeYoung said.

The Sheriff's Office has had 54 domestic violence cases the first three months of this year, he said. If the calls continue at that pace, the county will be on track to see 216 incidents this year, DeYoung said.

"We are seeing an increase, and we'll see where that takes us," he said.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department saw fewer domestic violence incidents from Oct. 1, 2008, to March 15, 2009, than in the same period the previous year, police Capt. Joel Rae said.

The department had 65 incidents and 28 arrests involving domestic violence for the period. From Oct. 1, 2007, to March 15, 2008, the police received calls on 77 incidents, resulting in 34 arrests, Rae said. The department has been busier overall, however, he said.

"A couple of weeks ago, our overall numbers for 2009 were at the time 50 case numbers higher than compared to the same time last year," Rae said. "Even though we're busier and having more activity, it appears we're having less reported domestic violence."

People who need counseling, referrals or other help with domestic problems can call Advocates Building Peaceful Communities at its 24-hour crisis line, 970-879-8888, or its office, 970-879-2034. The service is confidential and free, Moore said.

She urged people to seek help if they need it.

"I think at some point in most of our lives, we all need some support and help, and it's important not to feel embarrassed or ashamed," she said. "Just sometimes some of us need to reach out. This is a great community with a lot of wonderful resources."

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