The history of CAAFA is one of careful planning. The volunteer-led organization switched to a professionally staffed agency in 2003 and opened its first safe house. In the years since, CAAFA has established a legal advocacy program, a pet therapy program, begun offering food boxes, expanded its mission to include sex trafficking, military sexual assault advocacy, prison rape advocacy and opened its doors to all genders.
CAAFA is an advocacy-based and survivor-centered facility. What that means to its participants is that the focus of the organization, in addition to providing safety, support and outside resources, is offering in-house resource and advocacy options for victims rather than centering on enforcement of shelter or program rules. That, in turn, allows employees to have a connection with program participants and make efforts to be culturally responsive and understanding.
The organization is the only dual-purpose agency serving both victims of domestic and sexual violence and one of only three emergency shelter service providers in Pinal County. CAAFA is also one of seven domestic violence service providers, three emergency shelter service providers and the only dual-purpose agency offering general sexual assault victim advocacy in eastern Maricopa County.
CAAFA’s service area covers eastern Maricopa and Pinal counties with a total population of 1,286,715. Using the current census and statistics on domestic and sexual violence, there are roughly 375,292 individuals who will experience domestic violence and 423,050 adults who will experience sexual violence during their lifetimes.
As CAAFA approaches its 20th anniversary, the need for domestic and sexual violence advocacy services is greater than ever. The organization intends to continue to be both trauma-informed and culturally responsive. They want to increase financial sustainability, continue to adopt innovative practices, assess gaps in service and continuously adjust to reflect the diversity of the community.
So, now that we know the statistics, where do we go from here? First, everyone needs to be aware that DV exists and is not something that anyone “asks for.” No one “deserves” to be mistreated. Love should not cause bruises, cuts, broken bones or broken psyches. DV needs to come out of the bedroom and into the light of day. Victims need to know that they will be treated with respect and understanding by law enforcement when they call for help, and perpetrators of DV or sexual assault need to know they will be held accountable.