From: Contra Costa Lawyer
By Terry Leoni 2/1/15
Community Violence Solutions (CVS) opened its doors in 1974, as the Rape Crisis Clinic of Contra Costa and Marin counties. Although its name has changed since its inception 41 years ago, its mission has remained the same—to support adult and child survivors of sexual assault. It is not only one of the oldest organizations of its kind in California, but also in the country, with staff who works tirelessly to assist those in need after a sexual assault.
When asked about the work performed by CVS, one Contra Costa County deputy district attorney said that the employees and volunteers at CVS are the unsung heroes of the justice system who support others in their darkest hours.
Following a sexual assault of a child or adult, CVS provides a myriad of essential support services. For instance, the CVS staff and volunteers at the Rape Crisis Center are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist rape victims, in any capacity, immediately after an assault.
These are the people who race to the hospital at 3 a.m. on a weekend, to simply hold the hand of a rape victim during an invasive hospital exam. They stand with a victim in court while they courageously face their attacker. Roughly 2,000 brave men, women and children are supported each year through this invaluable program at CVS.
CVS is also home to the Children’s Interview Center (CIC), which provides specialized services to the youngest sexual assault victims. At the center, child victims find a place to feel secure and comfortable as they provide a statement of their experience and evidence to a trained CVS staff member or volunteer.
This process works to limit the child’s overall trauma by reducing and streamlining the number of forensic interviews and exams. With compassion and care, these saints of CVS work tirelessly, day after day and interview after interview.
Colleen Gleason, a Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney and current CVS Board Member, first became aware of CVS when assigned to the Sexual Assault Unit at the District Attorney’s Office. While at this unit, she worked hand in hand with CVS staff and volunteers, and witnessed them interview boys and girls at the CIC in a calm and efficient manner, and with genuine kindness and concern.
She finds that the dedicated people at CVS are instrumental in prosecuting sexual offenders because the single most important piece of evidence in prosecuting a sexual assault case involving children is this recorded CIC interview conducted by CVS. To Gleason, the people at CVS are truly inspirational.
Understanding that CVS is a non-profit organization that relies heavily on grants and generous donations, Gleason enthusiastically agreed to spearhead the Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorneys’ Association’s first fundraiser for CVS in 2012.
This event not only serves to financially support CVS, but also educates the community about the essential services that CVS provides, and has proven to be an incredible success. The third annual event in 2014 raised over $20,000, which is double the amount raised in 2013.
One of the fundraiser’s most remarkable aspects is the diverse group of supporters. It is not often that district attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement and social workers collectively rally around the same cause. This diversity of support for CVS is a testament to the organization’s valuable contribution to the legal community and the community as a whole.
Due to financial support from fundraisers like this one, CVS has been able to vastly expand its services. In the few years since Gleason started working with CVS, she has noticed an immediate and positive impact from community education and fundraising efforts.
When Gleason began working in the Sexual Assault Unit, she had little to no support for her child victims of human trafficking. Because of the generous contributions by groups like the Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorneys’ Association, CVS started a revolutionary program to combat sexual exploitation in the county, called the “Anti-Trafficking Project,” which now offers support and counseling for these marginalized victims.
To provide these crucial services, CVS relies upon volunteers to work in a variety of capacities, from the crisis line to youth education and prevention programs to community outreach. In addition, CVS always welcomes monetary contributions. More information about Community Violence Solutions, including ways to contribute, is available at www.cvsolutions.org.