Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. This is Gina Thorne, and I’m really excited today to be joined with Chris Goheen. Chris is with the SAVA group, the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center in Fort Collins, and you’re the Larimer County Victim Services Coordinator for SAVA.
Yes. I am one of two. I am based out of the Fort Collins office primarily.
And where’s your other counterpart?
She’s Cassie. She’s just outside the door here, and she’s based out of Loveland primarily.
Loveland. Okay. Well, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know SAVA, in part because we just opened our Fort Collins location and you all are neighbors of ours. You’re like right across the street. Which was really cool to learn about your services and understand how baked into the Northern Colorado market you are and how well loved you are, because I’ve talked to people in the community about the services that you offer and you all are obviously doing some pretty tremendous work in the community.
Let’s talk, first, about SAVA. Based on the website and some of the conversations that I’ve had with people, it’s got a broad scope of services that’s really focused on addressing sexual assault and victim advocacy. Can you share a little bit more about what somebody would experience as far as services when they come to SAVA?
SAVA has three primary areas of service. We have our advocacy team. That is really going to look like different things for different people. We can go to court with people. We can go to the hospital with people if they’re needing a medical examination for after a sexual assault. Then we also have our 24-hour hotline, so that’s a good way for people to get in touch with us. If they need somebody to talk to about something that’s happened to them at 2:00 a.m., that’s something that we can definitely do. That’s our advocacy. We also have our therapy team. Our therapists are specifically trauma-informed trained and to specifically help clients through different sorts of sexual violence. Then we have a prevention team. They go into middle schools and high schools, and they talk to kids about healthy boundaries, what those healthy relationships look like, and those sorts of different things. Yeah, those are the main three things that we have.
All very important. To touch all of those is important. How long has SAVA been in the community?
We’ve been here for about 15 years.
And there were no services prior to that?
Not that I’m familiar with. I know that some of our prevention programs, we have one that’s been going for almost 26 years, I think, now in the Poudre school district, and that’s really awesome.
It’s funny, you would think after 26 years, we wouldn’t need to continue doing these kinds of conversations, but I guess it’s still very prevalent.
It’s still a very big problem that we face as a society, and especially in Northern Colorado here.
What is the continued concern that SAVA has on sexual assault in this country, do you think?
With the Me Too movement and everything, it’s definitely something that we are seeing more people coming out and speaking up against, which is… That’s just an awesome thing that we see. Whether it’s getting worse or it’s just people talking about it more, that’s a hard thing to gauge. But we’re really happy that people are feeling empowered so that they can come forward with their voice and tell their stories.
Did you see an increase in call volume when the Me Too movement hit pretty recently?
We’ve just seen an increase in call volume just every year. We’ve grown a lot, especially recently. We recently opened our Loveland office. We’ve just seen an increase in volume all the time, whether that’s because of the Me Too movement or what have you.
It’s good to have the awareness and the willingness for people to feel safe that they can at least openly talk about it now, but at the same time now you have to have the services that meet the demand. Definitely, it sounds like you guys are working towards that. Part of my question that I was going to ask you is I noticed in your year-end report that you guys triaged over 1,100 calls last year, and does it seem like the issue is increasing or decreasing? It sounds to me like it’s more available and more readily apparent.
Yes. It’s definitely something that is being talked about more. I know that those were… Our year-end numbers were just over 1,100 last year, and we have already answered 1,200 calls, from what I heard yesterday, for our hotline, and we still have-
A few more months to go.
Whether the problem is getting worse or whether just people are feeling more comfortable to talk about it, that’s not something that we can say definitively, but we’re really happy that people are having SAVA there to be that point of connection there.
Curious about your background. What got you into working in this field?
I researched a therapy at one point years and years ago, and I thought… The therapy was EMDR. It was when it was first coming out, and I thought it was super awesome. Then I just fell down the rabbit hole. I started interning at SAVA a year and a half ago, and through that I ended up with a full-time position there and it’s been awesome.
Yeah. A lot of learning, I bet-and understanding the nuances of working in this field. It’s probably, in many cases, very similar to working with addiction in that you have to create self-care and boundaries around some of the things that you hear and see. I would imagine. What kind of practices are put in place at SAVA to help staff protect themselves?
Two things that are pretty huge. We have an amazing culture at SAVA. I know that I can rely on all of my coworkers to… If I’m having a rough day, if I’ve just heard something, we debrief after every call or walk-in that we serve, so there’s definitely the component of being like, “Okay, let’s talk through this in the moment.” Every quarter, we have a mandatory self-care day for our staff. We’ve done things like we went paddleboarding. We had one October 31st, and we did a murder mystery, so we all dressed up. That was a lot of fun, just ate food and-
We need to do something like that here. That sounds awesome.
It was super cool. The self-care days are definitely… We value them a lot at SAVA.
I think it’s so important because you can’t be… It’s like the whole oxygen-mask scenario. You can’t help others until you take care of yourself first.
Exactly. That’s definitely something that we talk about pretty frequently at SAVA.
Good. We always like to get to know the person behind the interview, so let’s talk for a minute about what is it that inspires you to get up every day to do what you do.
Yeah. I talked with a lot of folks in the office about this question because I was like, “I don’t want to just answer it for me.” The resounding opinion was our pets. A lot of people in SAVA are pet owners, so whether it’s them bouncing on you or just trying to make that better life for your pets. I think a lot of people identify with pets- and just definitely being able to be like… I think they go back to that self-care thing. A lot of people were like, “I just had a sad night last night and watched a movie and held my cat.”
That’s all you can do.
That’s sometimes just what you need. Yeah.
If I were to offer up the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
I think that there’s a lot of balance in harmony. I think that that’s just another word for it, balancing your own aspirations, goals with the community and the people around you. I think that’s a pretty resounding opinion at SAVA, is we’re all those helping people, so we all want to be there for people, but we all also understand the oxygen mask of “I need to be okay in order to help others.” So I think it’s just a balance, a physical, a mental, a spiritual balance of different things.
I feel like in how you’re describing SAVA, it does feel like a very safe place for somebody to go when they’re in their most acute state of crisis, or even not, even if it’s been a scenario where it’s been a long time and they haven’t felt safe enough to have the conversation. If somebody were listening to this today, Chris, how could they get in touch with you?
There’s a few different ways. Like I mentioned earlier, we have our 24-hour hotline, so I can give you the phone number for that if you like. It is 970-472-4200. That’s staffed by an advocate that goes through a 40-hour training that will be able to talk anybody through any sort of crisis, especially offer resources within Northern Colorado. That’s the best way. If anybody’s interested in volunteering or getting in touch with SAVA in that way, our website is going to be the best way to do that. There’s an application on there, and there’s our volunteer coordinator’s contact information. Even if they just have questions of like, “Hey, I’m thinking about this,” definitely… Her name is Tanya, she’s awesome, and she’ll definitely get back to you as soon as she can. It is savacenter.org.
Thank you, Chris, and thanks to your entire team coming up and visiting with us today. We look forward to continuing to work with SAVA.