AVENUES finds new ways to fight abuse

Hannah Jones, Shelter Advocate at AVENUES, looks at the new AVENUES website. The website has a built-in feature that helps keep browsing on their website confidential. It allows victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to learn information about the AVENUES organization without an abuser being able to know the website has been accessed from a computer or other device.

HANNIBAL — AVENUES has a new look as part of a rebranding effort brought to the organization by Tamitha Ague, who became the CEO of the organization last March. Along with a new look, Ague hopes to expand the services of the organization to continue growing its mission.

The names AVENUES is acronym for Abuse Victim Education Network Unified to Ensure Safety for Northeast Missouri. It advocates for the rights of all to live free of domestic and sexual abuse and assault by providing free, confidential, non-judgmental services to victims and survivors.

AVENUES will benefit from the 2020-21 United Way Be a Hero Campaign. Dollars from the United Way’s campaign are vital to the organization, Ague said.

The organization has multiple components that make its mission come to life. Advocates with the organization can be dispatched for crisis intervention to help support victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at the hospital or the police station.

The AVENUES shelter is one of the things the organization is best known for in the community.

“A lot of times you have a person who is living with a significant other, a boyfriend, and there is a disagreement,” Ague said, adding that when a disagreement happens an individual, many times a victim of domestic violence, is kicked out as the apartment or home isn’t in the name of the victim and they need somewhere safe to go. That is where the AVENUES shelter comes in.

“Many of our men, women, and children come to us with literally the clothes on their backs, they don’t even have sleepwear for that night,” Ague said.

Shelter Advocates help clients of AVENUES who are staying in the shelter figure out their next steps in life. Advocates help individuals find stable housing and also help clients get all of the items needed to start a new home such as beds, cookware, linens and more.

“We can be that jumping off point,” said Ague. The organization prides itself on helping victims become survivors and start a new chapter in their life.

Advocates with AVENUES walk victims through the steps of surviving domestic abuse. Advocates provide a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold in the beginning days. They then provide guidance to file orders of protection, navigate the court processes, criminal proceedings, and more.

“I have an awesome team of advocates who are very supportive, empathetic, and understand where many of our women or men have been,” Ague said.

AVENUES has a 24-hour hotline that can be utilized as a way for victims to connect or inquire about services. The hotline is also a way for family or friends of individuals who are in a negative situation to learn what they can do to help. AVENUES serves much of Northeast Missouri and recently expanded to serve Adair, Schuyler and Scotland counties in the Kirksville Area. The organization has hired a domestic violence advocate and a sexual assault advocate for that region.

“They haven’t had any services in the area and we are excited to begin,” Ague said. Plans are also underway to have a sexual assault advocate on the campus of Truman State University. Grant funding is currently being sought for that position.

“We don’t always like to think of having sexual assault on a college campus, but it is there and sometimes it is very unspoken,” Ague said. She hopes other colleges in the area can also have a Sexual Assault Advocate on campus in the future.

Ague has goals and aspirations for the organization as well as plans on how to make those goals and aspirations come to fruition. She knows the work the organization does in the community is vital. This year it was actually deemed as “essential” under COVID standards.

Forrest Gossett, editor of the Salt River Journal and chairman of the 2020-21 United Way Be a Hero Campaign, said AVENUES provides a vital lifeline for victims of domestic abuse.

“The staff are the unsung heroes of keeping families safe in Northeast Missouri,” Gossett said. “Their work stretches across all social and economic lines and touches each area of the counties we serve. Their organization is saving lives. Each year we know statistically that dozens of women and children from all the counties we serve find shelter and a safe haven at AVENUES. Without the organization, they would face very dangerous and possibly deadly circumstances.”

More information about the work of AVENUES can be found on their website at http://avenueshelp.org. The new website has a safety feature built in that automatically deletes the browsing history to help protect individuals seeking information on the services provided by AVENUES without wanting others to know. The toll free 24-hour hotline number is 833-243-6366. Other inquires can be made by calling 573-406-1400.

AVENUES is one of the 20 local organizations that will benefit from the 2020-21 United Way Be a Hero Campaign. To make a contribution to the campaign, text ‘UWMTA’ to 26989 for a prompt to give, visit http://unitedwaymta.org, or mail payment to PO Box 81 Hannibal, Mo 63401.

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