Personal tragedy sparked a nationwide fight against domestic violence
Nov 19, 2018 10:19AM
● By Josh Wood
Jessie and Jared Richards with a colleague raising awareness of domestic violence. (Jessie Richards, by permission)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
The tragic consequences of domestic violence struck close to Jessie Richards’s life. She nearly lost a friend.
To help combat the problem, she focused her professional research on the issue, and she and her husband worked with a team of other founding members to launch a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and supporting service providers for victims of domestic violence.
A Cottonwood Heights resident and business professor at the University of Utah, Richards has used her expertise to make a difference. She has focused her research on domestic violence and related issues. She also started raising money through her nonprofit organization, Fight Against Domestic Violence (FADV), to fund awareness and training programs. FADV also raises funds to support shelters and other organizations that provide direct services to victims of domestic violence.
Richards was motivated to fight against domestic violence when a friend and colleague of hers was shot and nearly killed by her husband. Her friend survived and the husband is in prison, but the drive to do something has remained with Richards.
“I wanted to apply my research to something more tangible,” she said. “We also started seeing what money we could raise and started education programs.” She, her husband Jared, and other founding members of FADV raised $200,000 over the summer and over $500,000 overall since the organization’s inception in February 2017. Shelters and other service providers apply for grants from FADV to run their programs and operations.
Jessie Richards and her colleagues at FADV work to raise awareness of domestic violence, what can be done, and what services are available. They direct people to service providers and help raise much needed funds to help them operate. “Shelters have a hard time raising money,” she said. “A shelter in Blanding had to close recently even though there is a huge need there.”
One way Jessie works to support domestic violence shelters is through corporate partnerships. Companies can raise funds for service providers in their communities, host events that help raise awareness and even donate goods or services. Jessie spoke of bedding and other everyday necessities that shelters always need.
“Dental services is an example,” she said. “There was one woman whose husband knocked her teeth out.” Jessie and her network at FADV were able to find oral surgeons willing to donate their services.
Campaigns to raise awareness of domestic violence have a number of goals. They let more people know about the issue, which in turn can lead to more donations and therefore resources available to victims of domestic violence. Shining a spotlight on domestic violence also helps to combat the secrecy that often surrounds the issue. That secrecy can contribute to shame among victims and less willingness to seek help.
Making people more aware of the often complex issues surrounding domestic violence can also help people who want to do something for a victim they know. “We get questions like, my sister or friend is in an abusive relationship, what should I do?” Jessie said. “They want to take them in, but it is dangerous to get involved at the time a person leaves the relationship.” Jessie and her colleagues work to make people aware of issues like this to educate everyone who might become involved. They aim to help victims and to give their friends and family tools to help without putting themselves in danger as well.
Jessie cited the murder of Lauren McCluskey at the University of Utah in October as example of the need for greater awareness. “There is a gap in resources for women that age, between 17 and 25,” she said. “They are not going to call a hotline. There is also a lack of resources for stalking situations, which are not taken as seriously.”
The vision Jessie has for her young organization includes raising more money so FADV can provide regular support to shelters and other service providers. She wants to help them keep their doors open and prevent communities like Blanding from losing vital resources like domestic violence shelters. She also wants to expand FADV’s advocacy work and to work more with police.
With a long-term vision, a growing organization and a tremendous amount of need in communities nationwide, Jessie and her colleagues have kept on working. “We just take it one day at a time,” she said.
People interested in learning more about domestic violence and Jessie’s work can visit their website at www.fadv.org.