Women dealing with domestic and sexual violence and its repercussions turn to TESSA for assistance every day.
This can be through the organization’s 32-bed safe house, victim advocacy, counseling, a 24/7 hotline, children’s programs and community outreach/education.
“We have lots of people trying to get into our safe house every single day,” said Courtney Sutton, TESSA’s advocacy manager. Often it’s necessary to consider other options, such as motels or facilities run by other groups, when the safe house is full.
“A lot of our clients will have their first touch point with us through the safe house or the court. We have a lot more contact than just a counseling session or a court session,” Sutton said. “We may see a person 30 times or five times or only once. It depends on what their needs are. This is all client-based. We are never going to force anybody to do anything they don’t want to do.”
Three years ago, Sutton said, she helped a woman needing to escape a domestic violence situation by getting her into the safe house. The woman’s life was in danger, as was that of one of her children. “She was with us for a couple of months. Now she’s thriving and knows how to advocate for herself. It’s really powerful to see what she’s been able to accomplish.”
The woman went through individual and group counseling. She has since graduated from college with honors and “has even talked about volunteering with us. We see and talk to so many people, but she is one who has stuck with me,” Sutton said.
With a staff of 50, TESSA has eight satellite offices. This includes Cripple Creek, Divide and Teller County; Calhan and eastern El Paso County; Memorial Hospital, The Citadel and Fountain. It also has offices in the district attorney’s office Monday through Friday.
Sutton said TESSA sees about 2,000 protection order cases a year; this includes permanent and temporary orders. The focus is on domestic violence and sexual assault, but occasionally they will assist at the courthouse with other types of cases as needed.
TESSA’s legal department recently received a grant that allows the organization to hire attorneys to handle the permanent protection orders. This is only for those with an existing temporary order, but it does cover the cost of an attorney. Otherwise, Sutton said, many women will try to represent themselves, which can be a daunting process.
“Our main office is at 435 Gold Pass Heights where most of our advocacy services, individual and group therapies are offered,” Sutton said.
TESSA also works with Urban Peak and Springs Rescue Mission to share information on the domestic violence cycle.
Several counseling programs are available, including sexual assault support, DOVE (Deaf Overcoming Violence through Empowerment) and age-appropriate programs for children: 13-plus; 10-12, 7-9, 4-6 and toddler time. There is one play therapist on staff with plans to add a second. Over the past three months, TESSA ran 700 therapy sessions.
Children’s and youth programming includes a Homework Club at the safe house, healthy parenting classes and a mentoring program to help parents find stable child care and stable transportation. “We are partnering with Harrison School District as part of our children and youth program to discuss what a healthy relationship is,” Sutton said.
Housing First is another program through which TESSA assists those with high housing needs such as rent.
TESSA recently merged with the Women’s Resource Agency, now known as the Women’s Resource Center, to further provide services in the form of workshops to help women regain financial stability.
All these programs make TESSA the key agency dealing with a complicated and overwhelming issue that the community must address.