Colorado Attorney General delivers check to S.A.R.A. House
Attorney General visited the organization Tuesday
The staff at S.A.R.A., Inc. knew that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman was slated to visit the S.A.R.A. House in Fort Morgan last Tuesday to learn about the organization’s work with child victims of sexual abuse. It was what she was bringing with her that was the surprise.
Coffman waited until the end of her visit to present the organization with a $3,500 check. Coffman said the check is intended to recognize the important work the center does for child victims of sexual abuse and help it to continue those efforts.
Founded 10 years ago, S.A.R.A. offers crisis intervention, referral and support services; 24-hour victim assistance and information, support groups, community education and other services. The S.A.R.A. House also functions as Child Advocacy Center that provides a child-friendly setting for forensic interviews.
Coffman said her visit is one of several she has made to such centers in communities around the state as she has strived to learn about them and how their efforts can be integrated into her work as Attorney General. Coffman said she had also made visits to centers in Grand Junction, Arapahoe County and Lamar.
“I have become more aware of the importance of (these kinds of services),” Coffman said. “In criminal justice we need to go beyond knowing the facts and look how we can treat and address the trauma that comes from these assaults.”
Coffman said that her visits were teaching her about the importance of providing capable intervention for child sex abuse victims as soon as possible. Too many victims, she said, do not seek out and receive treatment for their trauma until later in their lives.
“We don’t want kids or adults to suffer and our responsibility is greater than ever around that,” Coffman said.
Coffman said it was also helpful for her to come and test her assumptions about sexual abuse. She said that it can be easy for legal officials like her to look at sexual assault only as a crime and that officials need to instead spend more time considering the long term impacts of such crimes on their victims and how to address them.
Coffman said that her visit was “extremely helpful” as it allowed her to develop relationships and look at those involved in those efforts eye-to-eye. She said her visits had revealed that organizations in rural areas like Fort Morgan clearly lacked funding in comparison to those on the Front Range and needed greater fiscal support.
She said there is also a need for greater support for programs to educate teachers and school employees about signs of sexual abuse and how to effectively intervene and address them. Teachers, she said, sometimes chalk up behavioral problems to ADHD when a child has, in fact, been sexually abused.
Prevention should also be prioritized, Coffman said, as there often dollars for response services but not prevention. She said prevention could take the form of greater age appropriate sex education, including appropriate education around sex assault. There is no current statewide requirement for sex assault education, Coffman said, which means that decisions about whether to offer such education are instead left to schools and districts and is “hit or miss” as a result. She said that it is time for the state to mandate such education.
“This issue is tremendously significant,” she said. “Every kid deserves the same opportunity to grow up without those burdens.”
Paul Albani-Burgio: 970-441-5103, firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 Take Back the Night:
‘Empowering’ march on Main
Sexual assault survivors share their stories after downtown Fort Morgan march
S.A.R.A. Inc. counselor/therapist Cassie Potts leads the Take Back the Night march through downtown Fort Morgan on Friday night to raise awareness about sexual assault. “We have the power. We have the might. Take back the Night,” was one of the chants she recited into the bullhorn as she led the marchers. (Jenni Grubbs / Fort Morgan Times)
Becky Bornhoft shares her story of being attacked and raped in her own home at the Take Back the Night sexual assault survivors speakout Friday night in Fort Morgan City Park. It took 15 years before her attacker was arrested after he raped at least one other woman in the same way, and then another two years before he went to prison, she told the crowd. “Don’t stop talking because they don’t listen,” Bornhoft said. (Jenni Grubbs / Fort Morgan Times)
Becky Bornhoft has found peace with her past.
The sexual assault survivor shared the story of her attack in her home in 1993, the 17 years it took to see her assailant prosecuted and convicted, and why she is “not a victim” at the 2017 Take Back the Night march and survivors speakout in downtown Fort Morgan.
“I have been exonerated of my victimization,” Bornhoft told the crowd gathered by the gazebo in the park after the march.
She shares her story to encourage those who have been sexually assaulted to report the crimes and keep talking about them until perpetrators are caught and punished.
Bornhoft told of how she was asleep in her bedroom when the door was kicked in. She thought it was her teenage boys, but that definitely was not who had barged in on her and then assaulted her.
Although she reported the sexual assault, the case went cold.
“For 15 years, I waited,” Bornhoft said.
Finally, that same assailant attempted to break into a Denver police lieutenant’s home, and DNA from the ski mask he wore was tested against the database of felons’ DNA that the state had created more than a decade after Bornhoft’s attack. Her case and two other sexual assaults from 1995 came back as matches with this assailant’s DNA.
It took several more years before that suspect was arrested and tried, with a jury finding him guilty of kidnapping, sexual assaults and burglary, and the judge sentencing him to three consecutive life terms plus 384 years.
“I want victims to know, it does end,” Bornhoft said at the Take Back the Night survivors speakout. “You do heal.”
She encouraged others to share their stories and keep seeking justice, even if it takes a long time, like it did for her.
“Don’t stop talking because they don’t listen,” she said. “Don’t let them have your heart; don’t let them have your head. Every day my heart is set freer and my spirit is happier.”
Cherrie Mellott, another survivor of sexual violence who shared her story Friday night, called the Take Back the Night event “empowering.”
It was her first time attending such an awareness-raising event, and she told the tale of her father’s sexual abuse first of her sister and her mother’s unwillingness to do anything when Mellott told her about it multiple times.
“She turned her cheek the other way,” Mellott said.
She also shared more uncomfortable details about what happened to her, along with how for a long time she “was hesitant about what real love was.”
But speaking about her sexual abuse is helping, Mellott told the crowd in the park.
“It’s part of my healing process,” she said. “I’ve got to speak out about it. The more I do, the better I feel inside.”
Paula Bragg, executive director of S.A.R.A. Inc., speaks Friday night at the Take Back the Night speakout in City Park in Fort Morgan. “I want people to realize this is a violent crime,” she said about sexual assault. “It’s a premeditated crime, and we have to stand up against it.” (Jenni Grubbs / Fort Morgan Times)
Cassie Potts, a therapist/counselor at Sexual Assault Response Advocates (S.A.R.A.) Inc. in Fort Morgan, also spoke about her own sexual assault and offered words of encouragement to those who attended Take Back the Night.
“As a survivor my self, I’m so glad Morgan County has a Take Back the Night event,” she said. “If we can all stand together, we can diminish and eliminate rape culture.”
Potts explained that this includes jokes like, “I wish he’d rape me,” or remarks that make sexual assault victims feel like the attacks were their fault.
“When we chastise girls for provocative selfies and don’t encourage men not to rape, we promote rape culture,” she said.
Before the speakout, Potts led the way during the march, which began at the Fort Morgan Fire Station and wound up Main Street to Platte Avenue and back to the gazebo at City Park.
Paula Bragg, S.A.R.A. Inc. executive director, spoke about what it was like to open S.A.R.A. House in Fort Morgan more than a decade ago and why the mission continues to advocate for victims of sexual violence and abuse.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to open something that is needed so much in this community,” she said.
And while she has seen more prosecutions and convictions, they far too often are for lesser crimes, rather than sex crimes, Bragg said. That’s something she wants to see change.
People of all ages gather in City Park for the Take Back the Night sexual assault survivors speakout after marching through downtown Friday night to raise awareness about sexual violence. Several sexual assault survivors shared the stories of what happened to them. (Jenni Grubbs / Fort Morgan Times)
“Morgan County has a sexual response team, so I’m really proud of our city and county,” she said. “We have services that really benefit the victim.”
But she wants others to be aware of what terms like sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape really mean and what such sexual crimes do to a person, a family and the community as a whole.
“I want people to realize this is a violent crime,” she said. “It’s a premeditated crime, and we need to stand up against it.”
Bragg also advocated for people to speak up and talk about rape and sexual violence.
“No one wants to talk about it,” she acknowledged. “It’s an uncomfortable topic. But as long was we keep it that way, we are protecting the perpetrators.”
That’s what the Take Back the Night event was all about: talking about this uncomfortable topic and bringing sexual assault out of darkness and silence.
“Let’s voice that and not be so silent anymore,” Bragg said.
Jenni Grubbs: email@example.com or Twitter @JenniGrubbs
Teeing off for S.A.R.A.
Keith Bath Farms hosts weekend events to support the S.A.R.A. House
If you go
What: Prairie Challenge golf tournament
When: 8 a.m. Saturday, June 25
Where: Keith Bath Farms, 22424 MCR Q, Fort Morgan
Cost: $250 for a silver sponsorship team; $500 for a gold sponsorship; $1,000 for a platinum sponsorship; spectators can come free
More info: To register a team, call Jamie at 970-867-2121 ext. 113.
If you go
What: Cross lighting ceremony for S.A.R.A.
When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 24
Where: Keith Bath Farms, 22424 MCR Q, Fort Morgan
More info: Meet by the red shed; hay wagons and tractors will be ready to drive everyone to the cross.
Keith Bath Farms will be hosting two events to support the S.A.R.A. House this weekend.
The Fort Morgan-based child advocacy center’s biggest annual fundraiser, the Prairie Challenge golf tournament, will take place on Saturday morning for the sixth year in a row. Proceeds from the event will go to outreach programs and client care for the organization. On Friday night, Bath has organized a new event–a cross lighting ceremony dedicated to S.A.R.A. and to survivors of sexual assault, which will be held at the big wooden cross on his property.
Although Bath typically holds a cross lighting ceremony every year, it’s usually a local church event that takes place around Easter. This year a blizzard forced him to cancel the Easter event, so he decided to reschedule it as a community event in support of S.A.R.A. instead.
“We’ll show up this time, rain or shine, 100 degrees or not,” he said.
The ceremony will start at 7 p.m. and will feature a short message from two area pastors on the importance of fighting child abuse and sexual assault, a moment of silence and prayer for the S.A.R.A. House, a communion service and the lighting of the cross. Those who have survived abuse, or know someone who has, will be invited to help light the cross, but Bath said everyone is welcome to the ceremony.
“Anyone can attend who has a heart to protect children,” he said.
While the cross ceremony is designed to be a powerful symbol of community support for S.A.R.A., much of the organization’s financial support for this year will come from the golf tournament the next morning. So far, 13 teams of four have signed up for the Prairie Challenge, so named because it takes place on the prairie grass at Keith Bath Farms rather than a golf course. Jamie Crall, an outreach advocate for the organization, said the teams usually come from local businesses and organizations. They raise thousands of dollars through the ticket fees alone.
Bath and his friends Randy Graff, Curt Bostron, Gary Foos and Wally Wunsch are preparing a nine-hole golf course in a field, which they’ll decorate with tractors and other farm equipment for an “agricultural” theme. Crall said they chose “prairie golf” for the fundraiser to make it different from every other golf tournament taking place this time of year.
“There are so many other things you need to think about [than in regular golf],” she said. “At one hole, you actually have to hit through trees and water, so things like that make it more challenging.”
Tickets to the event cost $1,000, $500 or $250 per team, depending on the level of sponsorship. It will also include a silent auction and lunch, provided by some of S.A.R.A.’s biggest sponsors.
All proceeds from the tournament will go to the organization’s education and community outreach programs, as well as supplies for the house itself. Although S.A.R.A. receives several local and state grants every year, Crall said many of them can’t be used for those kinds of programs, which leaves a big hole for the fundraiser to fill.
Several staff members will come to both weekend events to help out, but Crall said neither would be possible without Bath’s support.
“He’s our angel,” she said.
Stephanie Alderton: 970-867-5651 ext 227, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/slalderton
Mayor proclaims April is month for both Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention in Fort Morgan
Sexual assault awareness event Wednesday at MCC
As part of recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, S.A.R.A., Inc. will offer a presentation at noon on Wednesday at Morgan Community College for the loved ones of sexual assault victims.
Audra Blythe, counseling intern at S.A.R.A. House in Fort Morgan, will present on how family members and friends can support a loved one after a sexual assault.
This event is free and open to the public. Those who wish can bring a brown-bag lunch to eat during the presentation, which will happen at the Fort Morgan MCC campus.
There are two things Fort Morgan could really do without, and both are in the spotlight in April: sexual assaults and child abuse.
To that end, Fort Morgan Mayor Ron Shaver proclaimed April to be both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month in the city at the May 5 Fort Morgan City Council meeting.
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month is intended to draw attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread and has public health implications for every community member of the City of Fort Morgan,” Shaver read in one proclamation. “The city of Fort Morgan strongly supports the efforts of national, state and local partners, and of every citizen, to actively engage in public and private efforts including conversations about what sexual violence is, how to prevent it, how to help survivors connect with services, and how every segment of society can work together to better address sexual violence.”
For the other proclamation, Shaver said that “the prevention of child abuse and neglect strengthens Colorado’s families and communities and ensures the opportunity for children to develop in healthy, trusting families, schools and neighborhoods, which consequently builds the foundation of society. I call upon all Fort Morgan community members to provide safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments for our children, free of violence, abuse and neglect, so we can ensure that Colorado’s children will grow to their full potential as the next generation of leaders, helping to secure the future of this community, state and nation.”
A big part of the significance of this month and the proclamations Shaver read is how the community will respond to and engage in educational efforts, events and the potential lessening of or even ceasing of both activities.
That is always the hope, but there continues to be a need for the awareness-raising, according to both S.A.R.A., Inc. Executive Director Paula Bragg and Morgan County Department of Human Services Child Protection Manager Susanne Brown. Both women were on hand at the council meeting to accept the two signed proclamations from Shaver and pointing to why they both are still so necessary.
“It’s too bad we have this type of awareness, but it is an epidemic in our society and in our community,” Bragg said. “And it takes all of us of us to ensure safety within our community.”
Safety was top concern for Brown, too, but specifically for the community’s children.
“I appreciate you partnering with the department to keep our kids safe,” Brown said to Shaver about the proclamation.
She also offered the council members magnets and pens emblazoned with the 1-844-CO-4-KIDS hotline to report child abuse and neglect.
For Shaver, reading the proclamations was one of his duties as mayor, but it also was a way to protect his community.
“I really appreciate all you do,” Shaver told Brown, offering similar sentiments to Bragg.
There will be two events happening in April related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Bragg said, with a special presentation at noon Wednesday at Morgan Community College for loved ones and friends of sex assault victims on how to support them and then the annual Take Back the Night walk from the Fort Morgan Fire Hall to City Park on April 22. Both events are free and open to the public.
Jenni Grubbs: email@example.com, Twitter @JenniGrubbs or tout.com/jennigrubbs
A birthday for S.A.R.A.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and advocacy group’s 10th anniversary
April is a busy month for the S.A.R.A. House in Fort Morgan.
Not only is it National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, giving the rape crisis center and child advocacy group more opportunities to educate the community about what they do, but this year also marks their 10th anniversary. Although S.A.R.A. (Sexual Assault Response Advocates) Inc. has only been located in an actual house for about five years, its founder, Paula Bragg, has been helping victims of sexual assault since 2006. To honor the occasion, the group has several events planned throughout the month, culminating in an anniversary dinner on April 30.
S.A.R.A. is holding its fourth annual “Take Back the Night” event on April 22, when the community will be invited to take a walk downtown and listen to music and speakers in the Fort Morgan city park. Several victims of sexual assault will also share their stories and talk about how to combat the problem.
“We’re trying to just give a voice back to the person who has been assaulted,” Bragg said.
Audra Blythe, a counseling intern with S.A.R.A., will be giving a presentation on Wednesday on how to help a loved one who has been sexually assaulted. The group is also holding several fundraisers, including a community shred event on April 26 at Morgan Federal Bank.
But the biggest event of the month is the 10th anniversary banquet, which will also raise money for S.A.R.A.’s efforts. Held at the Longmeadow Game Resort and Event Center in Wiggins, it will be a formal, four-course dinner with entertainment from comedian Sam Adams. But the main focus of the night will be to celebrate the group’s ten years of helping to bring justice to victims, and to highlight dangers and solutions to an all-too-common problem. To that end, Wheat Ridge detective Mark Slavsky will also be speaking about what he learned from a particular sexual assault case that he witnessed.
The goal of all the month’s events is to encourage people to talk about sexual assault instead of hiding it. Bragg said that was one of the main reasons she started S.A.R.A. in the first place.
“The more we talk about it, the less likely the secrets are going to stay secret,” she said. “The secret protects the perpetrator.”
S.A.R.A. Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to assisting investigators in child and adult sexual assault cases, and providing a safe place where victims can connect with medical, psychological and legal help. It is the only child advocacy center in the 13th judicial district.
Stephanie Alderton: 970-867-5651 ext 227, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/slalderton
418 Ensign St., Fort Morgan
970-867-2121 or 1-855-440-7272
All services are confidential and offered in English and Spanish.