Supporters of the Advocates Building Peaceful Communities organization gather on the Routt County Courthouse lawn Thursday during a vigil to honor victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Supporters of the Advocates Building Peaceful Communities organization gather on the Routt County Courthouse lawn Thursday during a vigil to honor victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Advocates celebrates Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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Supporters of the Advocates Building Peaceful Communities organization march down Lincoln Avenue on Thursday to honor victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Routt County Sheriff's Office Deputy Paul Yonekawa, left, and Steamboat Springs Police Department Sgt. Gerard Geis were honored Thursday by the Advocates Building Peaceful Communities organization.

— Several brightly colored T-shirts hung with heart-wrenching weight from a clothesline strung across the lawn of the Routt County Courthouse.

Decorated by victims of domestic violence and their family members, the shirts told a crowd of about 50 people the stories of hope, anger, justice, heartbreak and courage that might otherwise not be told.

They send chills up the spine and pangs through the heart.

The two white T-shirts, decorated in honor of victims who lost their lives to domestic violence, bore simple phrases like, “Beloved mother, daughter, sister and grandmother” and “You will be missed.”

Some were illustrated in graphic detail.

A yellow shirt simply depicted a smiley face and the words, “I survived!”

The Clothesline Project, which has been ongoing since May, was part of Thursday evening’s rally in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The event is put on by local nonprofit Advocates Building Peaceful Communities and featured a somber but colorful parade down Lincoln Avenue and the honoring of local law enforcement officials for their work on domestic violence issues.

Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates for its nearly 29-year history, said the event was another way to help raise community awareness about a prevalent but often overlooked issue in our community. Moore said that one in four women will experience some kind of domestic or sexual abuse in their lifetimes and that Advocates served more than 300 victims last year.

“We’ve made huge gains locally and nationally in getting out the awareness that this happens,” Moore said. “There’s not so much shame anymore; people reach out. But still, there’s some minimizing and denial about what goes on in our community.”

At the event was resident Meg McCord, who was the driving force behind the local version of the national Clothesline Project. She participated in a similar project when she was 16 years old in Illinois. A friend of hers had been molested by her father, who eventually committed suicide. While helping her friend work through the suffering and pain, the girls made Clothesline Project T-shirts together.

“Ever since then, I’ve been passionate about getting the word out,” McCord said. “She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met in my life. She’s an inspiration to me always and forever.”

When McCord moved to Steamboat 1 1/2 years ago, her new community became the focus of her efforts. In addition to her work with Partners in Routt County, McCord is a volunteer with Advocates and works the hotline that helps local victims find assistance, shelter and support.

“It’s alarming to me that people don’t get how much it happens,” she said.

At the event, Moore honored Steamboat Springs Police Sgt. Gerard Geis and Routt County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Paul Yonekawa.

Both, Moore said, have shown dedication to helping victims of domestic violence and have treated victims with respect and dignity.

Geis said after the ceremony that he encourages the community to continue to call law enforcement if they witness or hear something that doesn’t seem right. He said most domestic violence calls come from a neighbor or witness, and that can save a victim who isn’t in a position to make the call themselves.

From the calls he takes in Steamboat Springs, Geis knows that this is an issue that comes up time and time again. He, along with Moore and those who are working to end the violence, don’t want the community to forget that.

“We have this beautiful backdrop, but there’s a large amount of domestic violence, and that’s difficult,” Geis said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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