"UNSTOPPABLE". Defined as "impossible to stop or prevent". It was a term used by the Family Justice Center Alliance Director Gael Strack to describe the communities that were denied Federal funding, but who persevered in their commitment to making their dream of opening a Family Justice Center in their community a reality. (1) Fortunately, for the survivors of domestic violence and their families, the drive to build a single center that provides comprehensive services for victims of domestic violence and their families, stakeholders in Denver were unstoppable.
The opening of the Rose Andom building itself was the culmination of a decade of collaborative efforts by volunteers, philanthropists, and community advocates in Denver. If you ask the people working inside the building today on a day to day basis, it is those relationships that are the foundation of its ultimate success as a Family Justice Center.
Before we get to the issue of why relationships matter most, a bit of history. Many people who have been in and around domestic violence work in Colorado will point to a seminal event that they believe laid the groundwork for Denver's success in building cross-agency relationships and working collaboratively on the issues surrounding domestic violence. That event was the creation of the Colorado Coalition for Justice for Abused Women (CCJAWS) in 1981.The CCJAWS spent the 80s fighting for reforms within the criminal justice system, such as advocating for the development of pro-arrest policies and the creation of one of the country's first domestic violence coordinated community responses. When police agencies resisted, CCJAWS threatened suit. In turn, CCJAWS paved the way for additional reforms around the state and the country. If the arc of the moral universe is long, the formation of CCJAWS in Colorado certainly bent it towards justice for survivors of domestic violence. Margaret Abrams, the Rose Andom Center's Executive Director reflected on those days, "CCJAWS efforts at suing the police department really laid the foundation for the community advocates to work side by side with law enforcement."
"In Denver," she continues, "from then on, we just believed in bringing everyone to the table to talk. It wasn't really an intentional thing; it was more a common sense thing about answering the question of why we all weren't talking."
Other milestones became foundational to the success of Denver's vision, including the creation of the Denver...