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When a Friend Becomes a Stranger

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By Zoe Goodman

I ran into a woman I knew in the grocery store last week.  I flashed her a careful smile, a smile two strangers might share in passing, and then I intentionally moved to the next aisle over. I would come back for my stir fry sauce once the woman moved on. Until then, I busied myself in the cereal aisle. Usually, when I run into someone I know at the grocery store, I say hello. I ask how they are doing and I make a comment about the weather.  Ordinarily, I can pick up my stir fry sauce without having to desert the aisle and come back later. 

This instance was different because I volunteer at the safe house run by TESSA. The woman I ran into was a former resident, and she did not come to the store alone. For her safety, we pretend we don’t know each other, just in case the man with her is her offender. I don’t want her to feel compelled to explain how she knows me, or equally likely, lie. So we smile, and we move on. This is not the first time this has happened since I began volunteering at TESSA. Each time, it reminds me how little we know about the people we pass in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women in America will experience domestic violence and/or sexual assault in her lifetime. TESSA supports survivors while reframing the conversation around what it means to be a victim, a perpetrator, and a bystander in Colorado Springs. I am proud of El Pomar Foundation’s long-time support of TESSA in more ways than one. Through grant funding and board membership, El Pomar assists TESSA in carrying out its mission for a safer community. I personally appreciate El Pomar’s long history with TESSA because the Foundation supported me as I completed training to become a confidential victim advocate to help TESSA provide services to thousands of men, women, and families each year.

The next time you walk through the grocery store, consider that you might be walking past someone who has received TESSA’s services. Last year TESSA provided 11,083 shelter nights to 293 women and 208 children. TESSSA advocates spoke with 1,441 survivors at the main office, provided 2,265 victims with court support, and provided on-call advocacy to 323 survivors at Memorial Hospital. If you yourself are in crisis, you might also walk past someone in the cereal aisle who can help.

For more information on TESSA, please visit their website: http://www.tessacs.org/

To learn more about domestic violence nationwide, visit these websites: http://www.ncadv.org/files/Domestic%20Violence%20Stylized--GS%20edits.pdf and http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs-fact-sheet-2014.pdf