Following the Academy Awards this year, many people have been talking about Vice President Joe Biden’s words and Lady Gaga’s performance. Lady Gaga performed “Til It Happens to You,” a song she co-wrote and produced for the 2015 documentary film about sexual assault on college campuses, "The Hunting Ground." On stage with Lady Gaga, dozens of survivors of sexual assault stood in solidarity. During Gaga’s introduction, Biden urged viewers, “Take the pledge: I will intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. We must, and we can, change the culture” (www.itsonus.org). Lady Gaga’s point is that no one thinks about this stuff…until it happens to you (or a relative or a friend). Given the statistics, might it be prudent, wise and neighborly to start becoming more aware?

Next month I will be celebrating my one-year anniversary at Family Safety Network. It is a privilege to work with such a gifted and passionate team of staff and volunteers toward our mission of ending violence, abuse, and oppression while serving individuals and families that are suffering from domestic and sexual violence in our community.

There are two common responses when someone discovers where I work and what we do at Family Safety Network.

#1 “Does that really happen here?”

Whether you are originally from Teton Valley and have always believed this to be an amazingly beautiful place and you take great pride in your family heritage, or you are a “move-in” who came to Teton Valley to get away from the big city and have a slower, simpler lifestyle; you most likely want to believe that this place is different than other places. In some clear ways it is, sadly in others it’s not. I think that many of us pride ourselves in this place and our shared values of the land, the rivers, the recreational pursuits, active lifestyles and support of the local community. However, through tragedy or crisis, we are reminded that Teton Valley is not immune to the ills of this world.

Teton Valley breaks no statistics when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault. 1 in 3 women will be a victim in her lifetime. Let that number sink in the next time you are at a school event, a hockey game, staff meeting, skiing up at Targhee or taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Domestic and sexual violence are not the problem of a particular race, religion, economic level or location. There is not one community that is immune. Believe it. It happens here, the same as it happens everywhere.

#2 Wow, I’ve lived here over 10 years and didn’t even know Family Safety Network existed.

The vast majority of our community doesn’t want to believe that domestic violence and sexual assault happen here. In order to acknowledge our critical service to the community, you must be willing to engage the need for our services (see Question #1 – Believe it. It happens here).

Family Safety Network began in 1994 and serves an average of 300 clients each year. We are a community based advocacy organization that offers free, confidential, nonjudgmental service to victims of domestic and sexual violence. We offer support, resources, safe housing, safety planning, and referrals as needed to our clients. As a community, I ask that we open our eyes and acknowledge that it happens here. There is help available, Teton Valley has great resources available to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Believe it. It happens here. Together, we can work to create a community that is free of violence, abuse, and oppression. Know the resources. Take part in our community events. Dine Out to End Domestic & Sexual Violence on April 6th. Follow us on Facebook. Join the 1,000 Good Men Project and take our pledge (http://www.familysafetynetwork.info/#!1000-good-men/c1cpo). Caring, thoughtful, engaged friends and neighbors are our greatest resource. Let Family Safety Network help.

Family Safety Network’s mission is to partner with individuals and communities to eliminate violence, abuse and oppression.