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'Crushing': Friends remember Fort Collins teen killed in alleged domestic violence attack

Coloradoan, February 21, 2021 By Sady Swanson

Editor's note: This story contains references to domestic violence. Information about domestic violence warning signs and resources for those in crisis is available at the end of this story.

When Danielle Hopton’s three best friends remember her, it’s the little moments that stick out. 

For Emily Mulder, it's the monster truck rally they went to together years ago with Hopton’s dad and brother. They weren’t really into monster trucks, so Mulder said they just walked around the arena goofing off.

“It’s little moments like that, that are just goofy and inside jokes and fun,” Mulder said. “That’s how I’ll always remember memories with her.”

Some big moments stick out for Mulder too, like their weekend trip to Denver a few years ago when they went to Water World and Elitch Gardens, and stayed in a hotel, where they swam in the pool and danced in the elevator.

Kaiya Anderson recalled middle school, when they all met. They would sit around playing group games on their phones together and take silly pictures of each other.

“Every single moment that you spent with her was perfect in it’s own way,” said Aislyn Papworth, who was also Hopton’s neighbor. “You can’t just pinpoint a specific thing because, I mean, we enjoyed every single second we got to spend with her.”

Hopton, 18, died Feb. 7 from injuries sustained in an assault late the night before, according to Fort Collins police. Hopton’s ex-boyfriend Stephen McNeil was arrested the same day and charged with first-degree murder and domestic violence, among other charges.

Mulder said when she read about McNeil’s arrest, she immediately texted Hopton to ask if she was OK. 

Hopton never saw that text.

“I was just extremely concerned because I knew their history,” Mulder said. 

She then texted Hopton’s mother, who called her and told her what happened.

“It was just crushing,” Anderson said, and she called Mulder and Papworth to tell them what happened after talking to Hopton’s mom. “... Danielle was such a beautiful person, such a light in all of our lives.”

The neighborhood has rallied around Hopton’s family to provide meals and other kinds of support, Papworth said.

Hopton loved animals and was particularly passionate about training guide dogs with her family. Papworth said Hopton worked hard to train them and was always so proud when they passed their training. 

“(I’m) making sure that everything that I do and every decision that I make represent who she was and honor her,” Papworth said.

A GoFundMe page to raise money in Hopton’s honor for the Larimer Humane Society, Crossroads Safehouse and Guide Dogs for the Blind raised more than $37,000 as of Friday afternoon.

McNeil remains in Larimer County Jail with no bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 2 after attorneys asked the judge for more time to review the evidence in the case. 

Teen dating violence 'more common than people think' 

Remembering Hopton is not only about honoring her memory, but also helping others in situations like hers, Mulder said.

“This isn’t something that should happen to anybody else,” Mulder said. “... This is something that should have been prevented.”

Teen dating violence is "more common than people think," said Kari Clark of Alternatives to Violence in Loveland.

Girls and young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, Clark said. 

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and Clark said her nonprofit is continuing to try to educate Larimer County youths about signs of dating violence and resources for help.

According to data provided by Alternatives to Violence:

  • 40% of teens said they wouldn't know what to do if they witnessed dating abuse or sexual assault.
  • 60% of teens know a victim of either dating violence or sexual assault.
  • 46% of those who have known a victim of dating violence or sexual assault did not intervene.

Alternatives to Violence and Crossroads Safehouse in Fort Collins have programs through the school districts to educate students about dating violence, Clark said. But because of schools shifting to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students are harder to reach.

"Less information is getting out there," Clark said. 

When abuse is reported, Clark said their team works closely with the school administration, school resource officers and the teen's family to set up a safety plan. In instances where the abuser and the victim have classes together, the school can move the abuser to different classes to separate them, Clark said. 

Clark worries that teens in abusive relationships won't be as easily able to reach out for help while learning remotely.

"Having an SRO or trusted teacher (around helps)," Clark said. "It's really a shame right now with COVID not having those people around."

In abusive relationships between teens, Clark says they often see:

  • Cyber stalking
  • Controlling behavior, especially regarding a partner's social media or cell phone use
  • An abuser putting down their partner frequently in front of others
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Angry outbursts
  • A victim isolating from their friends or family

"Information is power for abusers," Clark said. "... It's all about power and control."

Clark said any sort of physical abuse — like grabbing an arm or punching in a moment of anger — is not OK, along with pressuring or forcing of sexual contact.

Family involvement is key to supporting a teen victim of dating violence, Clark said. 

Families should respectfully monitor their children's social media and cell phone use for red flags, Clark said. While children may not want to talk to their families, Clark said asking about their day and their friends and relationships can help families see warning signs.

Domestic violence warning signs

Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse that can include physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial elements where the abuser's conscious or unconscious goal is to gain or maintain control. There are not always physical signs of abuse.

Girls and young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.

Early warning signs of an abusive partner include: 

  • Controlling behavior
  • Guilt trips
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation 
  • Jealousy
  • Name-calling
  • Manipulation
  • Explosive temper
  • Mood swings
  • Checking your cellphone or email without permission

Help for people in crisis

If you or someone you care about is in a domestic violence situation, call Crossroads Safehouse's 24/7 helplines, which are staffed by trained advocates: 970-482-3502 or 888-541-7233 (toll free). You can also call Alternatives to Violence at 970-669-5150.

Other available resources for people in crisis include:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or call 911.
  • SummitStone Crisis Stabilization Unit, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: summitstonehealth.org/services/
  • UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies crisis centers: uchealth.org/services/behavioral-health/

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are merely accusations by law enforcement until, and unless, a suspect is convicted of a crime.

Alternatives to Violence Urges Community to be Mindful of Victims During Domestic Violence Awareness Month

North Forty News, September 27, 2020 By Steven Bonifazi

Nonprofit organization Alternatives to Violence has launched a dedicated texting service to help victims discreetly reach out for help.

Anyone seeking help regarding domestic violence can send a text message to the texting service at 970-669-5157. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, Alternatives to Violence (ATV) will be sharing videos, stats, and tips on how to aid victims experiencing domestic violence throughout the entire month.

With many people adjusting their lifestyles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those experiencing domestic violence are doing so while trying to find ways to reach out for help. With safer-at-home restrictions lifted in Northern Colorado, ATV has seen a surge in calls to their crisis hotline.

“Calls went down during safer-at-home because victims were having a hard time finding a time and place away from their abuser to reach out for help,” said Executive Director of Alternatives to Violence, Kari Clark. “Now that they’re able to sporadically get out, we have seen significant increases in calls,” Kari said.

The number of calls ATV received from August to September is as follows:

  • 195 crisis calls in July. That is a 46% increase from June, a 40% increase from July 2019, and a 180% increase since April.
  • 124 crisis calls in August. That is a decrease of 35% from the previous month, but an increase of 31% over August 2019.
  • 297 crisis calls during the First Quarter of 2020; 566 crisis calls were received during the Second Quarter; an increase of 91%.

ATV has also seen an increase in severe cases of abuse, mental health issues, and substance abuse.

Different ways Community members and businesses can show their support are as follows:

  • Talking to teens or younger adults about what a healthy relationship looks like
  • Donating time, money, or Wish List items to a local domestic violence resource center or shelter, like Alternatives to Violence.
  • Hanging up flyers with important numbers and information in common areas at work
  • Wearing purple. The color purple has long been a representation of those seeking justice.

“Awareness and action are urgently needed right now and we hope Domestic Violence Awareness Month will help,” said Kari. “If we hear or know that someone is in trouble, we need to reach out to help,” Kari said.

 

Pastels on 5th brings eye-popping color and artistry to downtown Loveland

Lacy Gangestad’s elephant recognized as first-place juried winner

Loveland Reporter Herald, September 13, 2020 By Max Levy

Artist Lacy Gangestad colors the tusk of the elephant dominating her pastel drawing next to Loveland Museum on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Gangestad’s drawing, which was sponsored by Realities for Children, was awarded first place during the Pastels on 5th event Saturday.

Artists gave Loveland’s Fifth Street and the plaza of The Foundry a vibrant makeover Saturday, as a socially distanced Pastels on 5th returned to downtown.

The pavement art festival and fundraiser for Loveland nonprofit Alternatives to Violence began nine years ago, but 2020 saw a few notable changes forced by the coronavirus, such as a cap of 100 artists and drawings being spaced several feet apart.

The inclusion of the Foundry plaza, which had its grand opening in August 2019, was another change, allowing more artists to spread out in a separate area of downtown.

Teams were also allowed, and as friends Stephanie Wadman and Maria Spoon worked on their shared square of pavement in The Foundry on Saturday, they reflected on how the changes allowed more freedom of movement for artists.

“They’re usually right next to one another,” Spoon said of the drawings. “Here, there’s a lot more space to walk between (them), so it works a lot better.”

The team’s square was split diagonally, with Wadman’s side featuring a colorful, geometric flower motif and Spoon’s side depicting a stylized flower and skull.

“She likes flowy lines, and I like the really hard, geometric lines,” Wadman said. “We each had different ideas, but now we’re figuring it out.”

Spoon said it was their fifth year coming to the festival together.

“It’s our outlet,” Wadman said.

Nearby, the father-daughter team of Bill and Kelsey Priestley worked on a drawing of a ram wearing a face mask, which was sponsored by Kelsey’s workplace, Shippers’ Supply.

“They just liked what I did last year, so I got asked to do it again,” she said.

She said a photograph of a ram had inspired her to sketch her design for Saturday.

Bill — who traveled from Athens, Texas, to spend time with his daughter — jokingly said the mask would help them remember when they had participated in the festival.

“That’s just a little humor,” he said. “This way, when we’re looking back at pictures, we’ll be able to remember when they were taken.”

A few streets north, the event’s director, Vicky Paul-Bryant, said it had netted just over $30,000 in sponsorships alone. The names of sponsors were included at the tops of each of the drawings.

Paul-Bryant also noted that the voting period for the people’s choice awards would be open through the following week, with members of the public able to pay a dollar to cast one vote for their favorite piece.

She said she received an enthusiastic response from artists excited for the rare opportunity to show off their skills as COVID-19 looms.

“Everyone is just so happy to have something to go out and do,” she said.

Nearby, artist Lacy Gangestad of Eaton worked on a mostly black-and-white drawing of an elephant, set against the background of a colorful sunset.

“I wanted to do something original, so this is actually based on a watercolor I’d done,” she said. “I wanted the black-and-white to pop, so you can see the colors of the sunset and the eyes.”

She said she became involved in the festival years ago, at the suggestion of one of her neighbors.

“I would always love doing chalk drawings with the neighborhood kids, and one day, one of my neighbors just asked whether I had ever heard of Pastels on 5th,” she said.

Gangestad’s elephant won first place in the juried competition.

On the other side of Fifth Street, next to a square featuring a portrait of Paul-Bryant drawn by an appreciative volunteer, a team led by Amanda Gress of Gress Art Studio worked on a neon-accented enlargement of a photo of a red-eyed tree frog.

Gress said her group picked the animal because of its colorful skin, which lent itself to the vibrant colors included in this year’s pastels.

“Working with pastels, they can be really bright, so it’s cool to bring out and exaggerate some of the colors,” Gress said. “The neon pink and orange (are) new this year.”

Artists were expected to work until around 3 p.m., when members of the public were invited in to look at the artwork.

2020 finalists

Juried (with name of sponsor and cash prize amount):

  1. Lacy Gangestad ($300, Realities for Children)
  2. Dion Weichers ($150, Loveland Pulse)
  3. Jennifer Chaparro ($100, Perfect Temp)

Young Artist Award:

  • Chloe Circenis ($50, LPR Construction)

Loveland Rotary Club donates $44,000 to nonprofits for COVID relief programs

Local organizations include Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, Alternatives to Violence and more

Loveland Reporter-Herald, September 11, 2020 By Austin Fleskes

Nonprofits in Loveland and Larimer County got a cash boost last month when the Loveland Rotary Club distributed 12 grants totaling $44,220 as part of the club’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

According to a press release, the grants have enabled the organizations to serve the community in “caring for children with wholesome and safe activities, supporting low-income families, serving those experiencing both emotional and physical needs and assisting with other supportive programs in the Loveland area.”

Julie Johnson Haffner, chairman of the COVID-19 Response Fund committee, said the purpose of the Loveland Rotary Club, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is to focus on community service as well as scholarships and educational support for children in Loveland.

The 12 nonprofits and their funding amounts include:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, $5,000
  • Project Self-Sufficiency of Loveland, $5,000
  • Salvation Army, $5,000
  • One Community One Family, $3,000
  • Alternatives to Violence, $5,000
  • Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning at Sylvan Dale Ranch, $5,000
  • Respite Care $5,000
  • Zion Lutheran Church Auto Repair Service, $3,000
  • Teaching Tree Early Childhood Learning Center, $5,000
  • Homeward Alliance Myrtle Street Isolation and Recovery Center, $3,000
  • Loveland Public Library to help with job readiness, $4,000
  • Thompson Education Foundation school supply program, $1,750

Haffner said donations from members were matched by the Rotary Club Foundation, which helped in reaching the $44,220 amount. This is not something the club has done in the past, Haffner said, and it was “incredibly successful” because of the generosity of the members who donated.

Haffner said there was a rigorous review process, through which foundation members and club members reviewed the applications to see who the money would go to.

“Because we do so much with other nonprofits in the Loveland community, our members were focused on which agencies they feel were going to be successful and which ones they knew would be able to make an impact based on their previous work, their experience and their reputations,” Haffner said.

She added that since giving out this money, club members have heard back from a number of agencies saying how much of a difference the donations made.

“These small things we were able to help fund in these agencies made such a difference to so many families,” Haffner said. “There is this cascading effect that we kept hearing about.”

Kaycee Headrick, CEO for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, said she is extremely grateful for the money, which will be going to operating costs such as supplies and custodial work.

“Our organization has always existed to help kids when they need it the most, and this is a time when kids need it the most,” Headrick said. “(Funding) means everything; It is our ability to do it. If we don’t have funding, we can’t offer these services.”

Kari Clark, executive director for Alternatives to Violence, said the money will help with employee salaries, an area that was facing difficulties due to the increase in need for assistance in the community as well as a loss in fundraising dollars.

“We are so grateful for their grant to help us out with our anticipated loss of income from events and individual donations,” Clark said.

Clark said that while many grants aimed at COVID-19 relief have been meant specifically for items such as protective equipment and Plexiglas shields, the Rotary Club “stepped up to the plate” to help out with salary needs.

Haffner said the funding of nonprofits like these is vital to the recovery that Loveland is facing.

“These are life-changing episodes and stories, but they are not going to be above-the-fold headlines, but they make a difference in how Loveland manages COVID and the recovery and the stability of our families in Loveland,” Haffner said

Loveland’s Pastels on 5th to take place Saturday despite pandemic

This year’s event will have some significant COVID-related changes

Loveland Reporter-Herald, September 9, 2020  By

Loveland artist Dion Weichers works on his sidewalk square in front of the Loveland Museum during the 2016 Pastels on 5th event.
Pastels on 5th is returning to Loveland for its10th year, but the sidewalk chalk art event will look much different than in years past, to keep people safe during the pandemic.

According to Vicky Paul-Bryant, director of Pastels on 5th, the event was initially created as a fundraiser for Alternatives to Violence, a Loveland-based nonprofit serving as a support system for survivors of violent crime ranging from domestic abuse to sexual abuse to human trafficking.

Over the years, Paul-Bryant said, it has become an event that both artists and the community look forward to.

“People from the city just love being able to go down there and look at all the artwork,” Paul-Bryant said. “This is our 10th year, and it has really become an established, well-loved Loveland event.”

The art festival is family-friendly and free to the public.

However, like so many other community events throughout the country, this year Pastels on 5th will look much different because of the pandemic.

Paul-Bryant said people who want to enjoy the artwork are being asked to not come until around 3 p.m. Saturday so that the approximately 100 artists will have time to finish their artwork without spectators present.

In previous years, members of the public enjoyed watching the chalk artists work. The chalk pastels endure on the sidewalks, so people also have been able to enjoy the pictures for days afterward.

“What we know from years past is people oftentimes come down the next day and throughout the whole next week to come look at the artwork, and that works really well because what we don’t want to do is have a big crowd gather,” Paul-Bryant said.

“We don’t want to be responsible in any way for potentially spreading COVID. We want to keep everybody safe but still have the event,” she said.

The event started out on the sidewalks on both sides of East Fifth Street between Lincoln and Cleveland avenues and in recent years has spread up and down Lincoln and Cleveland. This year, however, organizers have spaced the sidewalk squares father apart and are moving some artists to The Foundry two blocks south.

Paul-Bryant said the organizers have to keep each block that artists will be working on to no more than 175 people at a time, with artists and attendees more spread out. She added that many of the artists will most likely not stay by their pieces after completing them.

Attendees also won’t be able to enjoy food trucks, live music or the kids drawing station.

For the artists, beyond being spread out and having more time to work without spectators, the number of pastel tools and food has changed for this year.

Paul-Bryant said the team normally orders a 24-color set of pastels for the artists but was unable to get them this year. Instead, organizers have ordered some 48-color sets as well as some 12-color sets.

The artist lunch, which normally takes place in the Loveland Museum, won’t be happening, to keep everyone safe. Instead, artists will be provided with sack lunches while they work.

Paul-Bryant said another change in the normal system comes with the people’s choice voting system, in which attendees can pay to vote for their favorite artists. The money raised also goes to Alternatives to Violence, and the top three artists are given prizes.

While that is usually open only on the day of the event and for those who attend, voting this year will be open online for a week after the event.

“What will be good about that is normally it ended at the end of the day, and it was only people who attended the event who could vote,” Paul-Bryant said. “Now, if I am an artist and my artwork is on our website, I could send that to my family in California, and they could vote for my artwork from California.”

Voting can be accessed through the Pastels on 5th website, and payment will go through PayPal. Those wishing to participate can use the QR code on the site, so Alternatives to Violence is not charged any PayPal fees.

Paul-Bryant said that leading up to the event, organizers already have raised more than $30,000 for Alternatives to Violence from sponsors. While this is lower than in years past, Paul-Bryant said that the fact that they have raised this much is significant due to the economic strains the pandemic has put on local businesses and event sponsors.

Kari Clark, executive director for Alternatives to Violence, said fundraising events like this are vital to the existence of nonprofits.

“The community has just stepped up, and we are amazed that past sponsors and new sponsors have continued to donate,” Clark said. “We wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do without these dollars that are coming from the community.”

While the pandemic has changed the normal function of the event, Paul-Bryant said it is still something that will have an impact on the community.

“I know for the artists, just having something to go out and do, and I know for the people who plan to come and look at the artwork, just having something to go look at and see outdoors in a setting that feels safe just seems really important right now,” Paul-Bryant said. “People need to feel safe, but people need to be able to get out and do something a little bit different other than walking the dog and … going to the grocery store”

Dr. Natalie Phillips of Connecting a Better World talks with Kari Clark on providing safety for victims.

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher.

 

Executive Director Kari Clark is Special Guest on "Call Your Advocate" Podcast

May 6, 2020

The Avalon Center Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program in Tennessee invited ATV's Kari Clark to share a message of unity and hope during this scary time for victims. Listen to their ideas and stories on the Call Your Advocate Podcast - We Are Here For You available on the following links:


Podcast available on Anchor App:
https://anchor.fm/callyouradvocatepodcast

Podcast available on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/show/5n99jQjJhR2YMAICPeDEUh

Podcast available on Google Podcasts:
https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xYzQwYzVkOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==

Full of fear and hope: Fort Collins family escapes domestic violence during coronavirus

Jeara, a mother of four and a survivor of domestic violence, sits for a portrait in Fort Collins. Jeara and her children left her husband on March 5, 2020, the same day that Colorado saw its first reported case of the coronavirus. Now she and her children live in a domestic violence shelter in the middle of a global pandemic. (Photo: Bethany Baker / The Coloradoan )

 

Fort Collins Coloradoan, May 1, 2020  By Sady Swanson

When the new coronavirus initially hit Colorado in early March, many flocked to grocery stores and cleared shelves, preparing for the potential of hunkering down in their homes.

But for Jeara and her four young children, those first days of the virus looked a little different.

They were settling into their new normal at a domestic violence shelter in Northern Colorado. 

Jeara said she and her children — ages 11, 10, 8 and 4 — ended up at the shelter March 12 after an incident involving her husband days earlier.

In order to protect their safety, the Coloradoan is not using her full name or her children's names or identifying the shelter in this story. 

In court documents requesting a civil restraining order, Jeara said on March 5, her husband ripped a necklace off her neck, shoved her, ripped her glasses off her face and blocked her exit while being verbally abusive to their son.

Jeara packed a bag with a gaming system and a few other things for her children and persuaded her husband to stop blocking the door, saying she had to get them off to school. In reality, their school didn’t start for two more hours. 

“Twelve and a half years and it’s just unbelievable,” Jeara said. “Haven’t looked back.”

For most other Coloradans, the news of the day on March 5 was the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the state. By the time Jeara and her children moved into the domestic violence shelter seven days later, the state had 49 confirmed cases, events were being canceled and Denver schools were already planning to transition to remote learning. 

Jeara was able to go back to get more of her kids' clothes, though she said she had to throw most of her clothes away because they didn’t fit in her car. 

“But I got the kids' clothes and, you know, the stuff that was important to them,” she said. “And my kids. I got my kids.”

A pandemic in a domestic violence shelter

 Jeara, a mother of four and a survivor of domestic violence, sits with three of her children for a portrait in Fort Collins. Jeara and her children left her husband on March 5, 2020, the same day that Colorado saw its first reported case of the coronavirus. Now, she and her children live in a domestic violence shelter in the midst of a global pandemic. (Photo: Bethany Baker / The Coloradoan )

At the shelter, Jeara and her four children share one room and have access to a community living area and kitchen. Before this, the family would stay in hotels, so they’re used to being packed together to some degree.

“We’re kind of used to being on top of each other, but we’re used to having the freedom to go out, burn the energy off, play at the park and playgrounds,” she said. “Without that, it’s been a struggle.”

The coronavirus wasn’t really a problem when they first arrived, but Jeara said the situation started to get noticeably worse within the first week. 

“I kind of watched my school system shut down, and then the extra precautions were put in place at the shelter,” Jeara said. 

Shelter staff started asking residents to not go out unless it was necessary and to limit exposure to other people. In late April, Jeara said they were under a curfew to return back to the shelter by 9 p.m. every day. 

The staff at the shelter are wearing masks, staying home when they feel sick and sanitizing high-touch areas like handles, doorknobs and counters multiple times per day, Jeara said. 

“I couldn’t imagine if I got sick and ended up in the hospital where my kids would go, or if my kids got sick and ended up in the hospital what I would do,” Jeara said. 

In-person staff has also been limited, per state public health orders to make sure social distancing guidelines can be followed. Enough fabric masks were donated to the facility to give each resident two to wear when out in public. 

“They try not to limit our freedom too much, but to make sure everybody’s safe, they’ve had to put some limitations,” Jeara said. “... Which is good, I need to feel like I have some control.”

Not everyone is 'safer at home'

The coronavirus outbreak has not stopped the domestic violence shelters and resource centers operating in Northern Colorado from offering help. 

Crossroads Safehouse has seen calls to their 24/7 crisis line double in the past two weeks, executive director Lisa Poppaw said. They've also seen their lethality cases — cases where there was an attempt on a victim's life or their life is in jeopardy — jump from five or six annually to 18 in the past five weeks.

"My biggest concern is access to services and the inability to access services," Poppaw said. "It's quite obvious this is having a huge impact on victims and their families." 

Alternatives to Violence director Kari Clark said they’ve seen the opposite — calls to their crisis line dipped by 20% in March. The number of calls in April was about the same as March, but down 40% from the number of crisis line calls in April 2019 — from 119 calls in April 2019 down to 71 calls in April 2020.

Clark suspects the decrease comes from victims being trapped with their abusers and not having the ability to safely reach out for help, or they don’t feel comfortable going out in public to ask for help because of the virus. 

“For many people, they are not safer at home. It is more dangerous of a situation,” Clark said.

Clark said Alternatives to Violence has had two lethality cases, and they were able to shelter those people at hotels because their shelter is currently full. 

On average, Alternatives to Violence receives about 90 to 100 calls to their crisis line per month and their shelter can house about 22 people in eight rooms at one time. Poppaw said Crossroads has 26 rooms and on average receives 200 to 250 calls to their crisis line per month.

An open records request filed April 22 for the number of arrests on domestic violence charges in Larimer County had not been fulfilled as of April 30. 

Being asked to shelter in place can put extra pressure on already volatile situations, Poppaw said. Add potential unemployment, financial pressures and stress of being around people constantly, and it can become an increasingly dangerous situation for many.

Isolation is often used by abusers to maintain power and control, and abusers may be manipulating public health policies like isolation and physical distancing to prevent survivors from seeking help, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Program. Financial dependence is another tool often manipulated by abusers, making some especially vulnerable during this uncertain economic time.

“This is the prime condition for abusers right now,” Clark said. 

Poppaw and Clark both said they are preparing for a surge in calls and a need for their resources when the coronavirus pandemic settles and more people are able to safely reach out for help. Clark said anticipated increases in requests for shelter are concerning because Colorado already has a high turn-away rate.

In the meantime, Clark said to be mindful of your friends and family who might be living in an unsafe situation. Try to make contact through video calls or by dropping groceries off and safely seeing each other through the door. 

“Let them know you’re there no matter what,” Clark said. 

Poppaw said people who are able to reach out safely can and should do so, and resources remain available for survivors during this pandemic response. 

“Do what you need to to stay safe, and when the opportunity arises, please reach out to us," Poppaw said. "We’re here 24/7 every single day, and we’re here to help you."

Remote learning: lessons in self-love

When Jeara and her family arrived at their shelter, the children were on their regularly scheduled spring break. Not long after, the school district announced that the school year would finish remotely. 

Home-schooling her four children from the shelter has been fun, challenging and rewarding, Jeara said. One of her sons understands and can pretty easily complete his work; he just hates doing it. Her youngest daughter is still in preschool, so just giving her a workbook and letting her trace out letters has been doable.

Her other daughter — who excels in math and loves it so much Jeara said she sometimes spends time writing out her own math problems to solve — struggles in most other subject areas and utilizes additional resources at her school. The school gave them extra work packets to help guide Jeara in assisting with the extra work. The family was also given access to laptops.

At the beginning, the only internet the kids had was the hotspot on Jeara’s phone — the shelter didn't have Wi-Fi for the residents. The phone company would let her increase her plan only once per billing cycle, and she quickly ran out of data.

When that happened, Jeara said she bought notebooks and was writing out math problems for her older kids and dotted letters for her youngest daughter to trace. When she really needed internet access, she’d park outside a Starbucks or another place with Wi-Fi and connect.

Now the shelter has set up Wi-Fi for the residents who need it for school or work, and Jeara has unlimited data on her cellphone plan.

On Tuesdays, Jeara’s youngest daughter uses Jeara’s phone to video chat with her speech therapist. The rest of the kids have video calls with their teacher and classmates to talk about their schoolwork and goals.

“They want to be in school … they love it so much,” Jeara said. 

Beyond schoolwork, Jeara found ways to educate and entertain her kids in the shelter. One day, she traced each child's silhouette on large pieces of paper and had them each write the things they loved about themselves. Then Jeara asked each child to say what they loved about each other so they could be added to their drawings. 

“(We did that) to build that self-love in them so they can see the good aspects of themselves,” she said. 

Her sons especially struggle with self-esteem because of how their father treated them, Jeara said. While staying at the shelter, one of her sons woke up in the middle of the night to ask her if he was a mistake “because Daddy told me I was a mistake,” Jeara recalled.

Now that they are away from their father, Jeara said she can really see the effects of the abuse on her children. 

“My girls, they’ll cry because ‘I love my daddy, I miss my daddy, but I’m scared of my daddy.’ That’s what both of them say,” Jeara said.

All of her kids loved going to school because it took their minds and attention off the issues at home. It’s been hard for them to focus while doing their schoolwork at their new temporary home because “their minds can go anywhere,” Jeara said. 

'I'm not a victim; I'm a survivor'

Now that she and her children are out of the situation, Jeara said she’s had more time to process her own anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

“I used to be this independent, self-sufficient, scared-of-nothing, go-out-there-and-get-'em person,”Jeara said. 

Being in a place where she knows she and the kids are safe has helped calm her anxiety, she said.

In early April, Jeara filed for a protection order against her husband after he left her a threatening voice message telling her that if she didn’t stop making him look like a bad dad, he would “come get me,” she said. 

A permanent protection order was granted April 16. Her husband did not show up for the hearing, she said. Because the threats were made against her only and not the children, the judge granted the protection order only for Jeara, though she currently has custody of the children.

The protection order was granted in civil court proceedings and requires Jeara's husband to stay away from her. He has not been charged with a crime in connection with the March incident, and as such the Coloradoan is not naming him in this story. 

“I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and so are my kids,” she said. “And surviving everything we did shows how strong all of us are.”

Now Jeara is working on what's next. At the shelter, she has a three-person advocacy team that she said has helped her find any resources she needs.

Jeara has also been approved for legal assistance and given counseling referrals, which she and all her children will need, she said. 

“At the end of it all, I think I’m going to be better prepared to go out and find a job and go back to work,” Jeara said. “It’s like I’ve been put in a timeout, but it’s a good timeout.”

Beginning May 26, Jeara plans to start taking online classes through a community college for criminal justice and work toward becoming a probation officer. 

“I think I could be a good probation officer, and I think I’ve been through enough in life that not quite so many people could come in and pull the wool over my eyes,” Jeara said. 

Next month she plans to file for divorce and push to make sure her husband can’t be involved in their kids’ lives. He currently has no visitation rights, Jeara said, and he has to wait a year before he can try to get custody because he moved out of state.

“I’m ready to move forward, I’m ready to be divorced and have my name back,” Jeara said.

Looking ahead to the eventual end of the pandemic and life going back to normal, moving out of the shelter is still a big concern. She has set up a GoFundMe page to help them get back on their feet after they leave the shelter: www.gofundme.com/f/regaining-our-lives.

“I’m scared to be in a place that’s not as secure as this. I think that’s my biggest fear,” Jeara said. 

But in their short time there, Jeara said she’s seen her kids be kids again and she’s excited to continue to watch them grow.

“I’ve seen the light starting to come back in their eyes again,” Jeara said. “I’ve started seeing them playing and not being scared to play because they’re being too loud or whatever the case may be … I absolutely love it.” 

Domestic violence warning signs

Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse that can include physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial elements where the abuser's conscious or unconscious goal is to gain or maintain control. There are not always physical signs of abuse.

Girls and young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.

Early warning signs of an abusive partner include: 

  • Controlling behavior
  • Guilt trips
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation 
  • Jealousy
  • Name-calling
  • Manipulation
  • Explosive temper
  • Mood swings
  • Checking your cellphone or email without permission

Help for people in crisis

If you or someone you care about is in a domestic violence situation, call Crossroads Safehouse's 24/7 helplines, which are staffed by trained advocates: 970-482-3502 or 888-541-7233 (toll free). You can also call Alternatives to Violence at 970-880-1000.

Other available resources for people in crisis include:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or call 911.
  • SummitStone Crisis Stabilization Unit, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: summitstonehealth.org/services/
  • Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies crisis centers: uchealth.org/services/behavioral-health/

Alternatives to Violence releases video sharing safety tips for victims of domestic violence

Loveland Reporter Herald, April 25, 2020 By Carina Julig

Many Coloradans are currently spending long periods of time in their homes to try to  stay safe from the coronavirus. But for victims of domestic violence, home is not a safe place.

Alternatives to Violence, Loveland’s domestic violence shelter, has seen a 20% drop in calls in the past several weeks. Executive director Kari Clark said she believes the drop is in part because victims are confined in the same space as their abusers, and don’t have the privacy to try and put together an exit strategy.

“They can’t make that ‘I need help’ phone call because they’re being watched constantly,” Clark said in an earlier interview with the Reporter-Herald.

With people limited in how often they can leave the home, the shelter has been ramping up its online outreach, and put together a video urging people to reach out to Alternatives to Violence if they need help and providing safety tips to those quarantined with an abuser.

The tips include having children memorize important phone numbers and where to go in the event of a crisis, identifying the safest and most discreet escape from the residence, creating a code word with a trusted friend to let them know if you are in trouble and documenting any physical abuse.

Alternatives to Violence can be reached 24/7 by calling its crisis hotline at 970-880-1000.

The video can be viewed at https://www.dropbox.com/s/fl4zb242ij25b5z/ATV%20STAY%20SAFE%20AT%20HOME.mp4?dl=0&fbclid=IwAR3MgqUF2CLEhZRxuUArEH8VSQVUQS9uwW06gEpSU7VieSnYUBDKpaIp3ww.

If You Feel Unsafe at Home, Here is What to do (Video)

For this week's episode of "Tuned In to NoCo," I spoke with local non-profit Alternatives to Violence about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting victims of domestic violence.

Kari Clark, the organization's executive director, explained how we can all help these victims, even while self-isolating.

Now, the non-profit has released a video guide detailing what to do if you are experiencing violence in your own home.



Read More: If You Feel Unsafe at Home, Here is What to Do [VIDEO] | https://999thepoint.com/if-you-feel-unsafe-at-home-here-is-what-to-do-video/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral

Townsquare Media blogs, April 24, 2020  By Emily Mashak

For this week's episode of "Tuned into to NoCo," I spoke with local non-profit, Alternatives to Violence about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting victims of domestic violence.

Kari Clark, the organization's executive director, explained how we can all help these victims, even while self-isolating.

Now, the non-profit has released a video guide detailing what to do if you are experiencing violence in your own home.

Some of their tips include physically distancing yourself from your abuser if you can, planning an escape route, and staying in touch with friends and family as much as possible.

And, remember that Alternatives to Violence is reachable 24/7 via (970) 880-1000, their crisis hotline.

To see the original post and watch the video, visit here.

Aside from a few lucky introverts, I'm sure most of us are tired of the social isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while isolation is simply annoying for us, it can be dangerous for others, including domestic violence victims.

"Isolation is already a regular tactic that abusers use and it's something that can be easily manipulated during what's going on right now to further control and isolate victims," said Kari Clark, Executive Director of Alternatives to Violence, in our "Tuned In to NoCo" interview.



Read More: How Isolating COVID-19 Culture Affects Domestic Violence Victims | https://999thepoint.com/how-the-isolating-covid-19-culture-affects-domestic-violence-victims/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral

Townsquare Media blogs

Aside from a few lucky introverts, I'm sure most of us are tired of the social isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while isolation is simply annoying for us, it can be dangerous for others, including domestic violence victims.

"Isolation is already a regular tactic that abusers use and it's something that can be easily manipulated during what's going on right now to further control and isolate victims," said kari Clark, Executive Director of Alternatives to Violence, in our "Tuned in to NoCo" interview.

Alternatives to Violence is a non-profit organization in Northern Colorado that provide advocacy, shelter, education, resources, and more to those affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. 

Clark wants victims to know that even though precautionary measures against the virus have changed the way the organization is operating, their dedication to supporting victims is still unwavering.

Alternatives to Violence is accessible via their website, their office phone at (970) 669-5150, and their after-hours crisis hotline at (970) 880-1000.

The general public can also do its part to help victims, even while in isolation at home.

"Keep in touch with your loved ones and your friends, talk to them," said Clark. "People who might be in an abusive situation...try to talk to them and set up a code word when they're not around their abuser. Reach out to them as much as you possibly can."

Vigilance and connection are key, even as the stay-at-home order shifts to the safer-at-home order on Monday (April 27).

To learn more about Alternatives to Violence and how you can help domestic violence victims amidst the pandemic, listen to the full "Tuned in to NoCo" interview with Kari Clark here.

Alternatives to Violence works to help domestic abuse victims amid COVID-19

The shelter has seen a 20% decrease in calls since the beginning of the pandemic

Loveland Reporter Herald, April 17, 2020 By Carina Julig

Wearing masks, Jillian Kolman, left, and Emily Rosa, both case workers for Alternatives to Violence, chat Tuesday, April 15, 2020, while working in Loveland.

The coronavirus has thrown a curveball into the operations of Loveland’s domestic violence shelter, Alternatives to Violence, but the shelter is working to adapt to the new situation and help victims of abuse during an uncertain time.

The shelter has seen a 20% decrease in calls in the past several weeks, said executive director Kari Clark. With people being quarantined inside, it’s possible that victims of abuse aren’t able to reach out to the shelter because they don’t have any privacy from their abusers.

“They can’t make that ‘I need help’ phone call because they’re being watched constantly,” Clark said.

Financial stress is also a factor, Clark believes. Since many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, they may not have the financial resources right now to leave an abusive partner.

Though calls are down now, the shelter expects to see an increase later, Clark said. During other crises, research has shown that call volume initially drops and then “explodes” two or three months later, she said.

Clark said that she is concerned by the increase in gun sales in Colorado, which have surged during the pandemic.

According to research by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, a leading expert on domestic abuse, the presence of a gun in a household increases the risk that a woman will be killed by her abusive partner by 500%.

“We know that people are scared, but that makes the risk way higher for somebody who is living with an abusive partner,” Clark said.

The shelter has limited the number of staff it has working in its office, and has transitioned many of its employees to remote work. Caseworkers are using a confidential videoconferencing app to speak with clients instead of doing in-person visits, and the shelter is looking into using a confidential texting app as well.

The safehouse is full to the capacity that is safe, Clark said. Previously people could double up in rooms if necessary, but in the effort to keep people socially distanced that is no longer a possibility.

Because of the virus, the shelter has waived the time limit for people staying in the safehouse. People usually are allowed to live in the safehouse for up to eight weeks, but are now allowed to stay indefinitely until Colorado’s stay-at-home order is lifted.

Finding places for people to stay has been challenging, and Clark said the shelter has seen an increase in calls from people who left an abuser and can’t find anywhere to go. Homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters are full across Northern Colorado. The shelter has some funding to put people in hotel rooms, and has been paying for two-week hotel stays.

With so many parts of ordinary life disrupted, the shelter is trying to find new ways to reach people. Since grocery stores are one of the main places people go now, it’s been attempting to work with local stores to put up posters with information about how to get help for domestic violence.

Like many other businesses and nonprofits, the pandemic has caused Alternatives to Violence to suffer financially.

The shelter was supposed to hold its annual Purple Ribbon Breakfast the first week of April, with a keynote speech from Mildred Muhammad, the ex-wife of the D.C. sniper. The breakfast is the shelter’s largest fundraiser of the year.

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Alternatives to Violence  |  541 E. 8th St. |  Loveland, CO  80537
Office Hours: 9:00am - 4:00pm  |  Monday - Thursday  |  Friday 9:00am-Noon. Closed Saturday & Sunday
Office Phone: 970-669-5150  |  Fax: 970-669-5136  | 

Alternatives to Violence provides shelter, advocacy, education and resources for people impacted by domestic violence , sexual assault and human trafficking.

Alternatives to Violence provides services to women, men and children regardless of race, sexual orientation or legal status.

© 2018 Alternatives To Violence