Three Decades of Victim Services: Community support, collaboration, and partnerships make CAPSA possible
In 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected president, Donny and Marie Osmond topped the Billboard charts, the average family made $12,600 a year and you could buy a first-class postage stamp for 13 cents. Closer to home in 1976, two women were brutally date raped on the campus of Utah State University. One of the women's friends called Marsha Rawlins and suggested starting a rape crisis hotline to help victims. Marsha agreed that there was a need and started the Cache Valley Rape Crisis Team (CVRCT) with a hotline at the Utah State University Women's Center.
Early on, the calls were few and far between, averaging only about one per month. In its second year the CVRCT partnered with an information referral line, HelpLine, which started referring both rape and domestic violence survivors. As the domestic violence calls rapidly increased the members realized that they were unprepared to offer needed help, and decided to get some domestic violence-specific training.
By 1979 the organization had changed its name from the CVRCT to Citizens Against Physical & Sexual Abuse (CAPSA). The same year Utah was among the first states in the nation to pass a spousal abuse act making domestic violence against the law.
The state also provided increased funding for organizations like CAPSA that were helping people impacted by domestic violence, and CAPSA was able to get its own hotline and set up safe houses throughout Cache Valley for those in need of shelter.
For the first couple of years, according to Marsha, the organization was "a bare, grassroots effort by people of all age groups, all races, colors, shapes and sizes" with a common purpose of helping women in danger. After a couple of years the founding volunteers began reaching out to other community organizations for help achieving their mission.
Organizations like the Department of Family Services, BRAG's Community Action Program, the YWCA of Ogden and Bear River Mental Health (BRMH) were happy to refer and provide services for those in need of CAPSA's help. But the most important partnership was with local law enforcement agencies.
Prior to working with CAPSA, when officers responded to a domestic violence call, the officer would take the man out of the house, but within a short time he would be released and free to return to his home. Now officers could give those being abused the opportunity to go to a safe place.
Around this time Thad Box, Dean of the College of Natural Resources where Marsha worked, approached her to offer his home as a safe house. He and his wife Jenny went through the Social Services inspection process and were approved to become a shelter of "frail and endangered elders", since there was no formal designation for shelters for domestic violence at that time.
Thereafter a call would come from the police, and an officer would arrive with a woman in need of shelter and however many children she had with her. Thad and Jenny were paid $5 per day per client from the Department of Human Services, which didn't come close to covering costs, but they accepted it and donated it back to CAPSA.
"The needs I saw were so desperate, and what I had to offer was laughably inadequate," she remembers.
As Jenny became more frustrated with her inability to provide lasting help for the sheltered women she discovered grant funding opportunities, and got the Cache County Commission's support to apply for the money. CAPSA also received help from Bear River Mental Health, Logan Police, Cache County Sheriff, USU Police, and the Logan City Attorney. The general attitude at the time, recalls Jenny, was "It's about time we had an organization like this—it is needed."
Jenny obtained enough grant funding to purchase the first shelter in 1984. However, CAPSA had no continual funding to run the shelter, except the $5 per day per client coming from the state. So a board member organized the thrift store, Somebody's Attic, to provide a source of funding for the organization. Somebody's Attic still exists today, having opened a second store in downtown Smithfield, and provide support for both CAPSA and the Child and Family Support Center with thousands of dollars donated every year.
Later that year CAPSA was officially incorporated as a non-profit and hired its first five staff members to work at the shelter when it opened on Valentine's Day in 1985.
The organization grew slowly in the coming years, trying to strike a balance between limited funds and the massive needs for domestic violence and rape services in Cache Valley. CAPSA formed the first Mobile Crisis Team in the state of Utah in 1992. It was a perfect example of cooperation between advocates and law enforcement for the benefit of victims, and is still one of the strongest teams in the entire state.
By the mid-90's the number of CAPSA volunteers had reached a level that made it impossible to train each one individually, so CAPSA organized the first group volunteer trainings, now held three times a year in January, May, and September (for more information on becoming a volunteer, see our Volunteers page).
In 1996 Kathryn Monson began expanding grant programs to meet the growing demand for services.
CAPSA had moved from the original shelter to a new shelter in 1989, and eight years later was badly in need of a larger facility. Offices were on the stairs, filing cabinets filled the living room, and the Fire Marshall was ready to shut the place down. When Jill Anderson was hired as director in 1997 she knew it was time to build a much larger shelter.
Such an ambitious facility required five years of planning and fundraising, and CAPSA received a generous outpouring of support from the community. The new CAPSA advocacy center opened in 2002.
For the next two years fundraising continued to complete the shelter. The previous shelter could house a maximum of 20 people, but CAPSA's new facility opened in 2004 with eight separate rooms and beds for 32 adults, cribs for several infants, two large family/living rooms and two kitchens.
Looking to the Future
CAPSA's programs currently include a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, and mobile crisis response team, four educational support groups, a diversity program, rape crisis program, rape prevention education team, transitional housing program, therapy services, children's program, and a very strong volunteer program.
The dedication of the staff and the generosity of community members also grows with the need for services. In the words of early CAPSA volunteer Jenny Box, "I can only conclude that this organization exists because it needs to exist, because it was meant to be. When the need is greatest, someone in our community always steps forward and saves the day."
So we extend a warm thanks to those of you who have, over the years, through your service, help, support, and caring, stepped forward to save the day for CAPSA as an organization, and thereby helped save many families from the terrible tragedy of living with violence.