Progress Made in 2023

by Marjie George

In the heart of Whatcom County, a beacon of hope shines brightly — Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County (DVSAS). As we reflect on the strides we’ve made in 2023, it’s with a deep sense of commitment and pride that we share the transformative impact we’ve had on individuals affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.

6,600 Hours of Support
In the pursuit of our mission to provide support to local survivors, DVSAS expects to deliver over 7,500 hours of advocacy in 2023, an 18 percent increase in advocacy hours over 2022. DVSAS advocates (both volunteer and staff) are required to undergo a rigorous, accredited Advocacy Counselor Training program that includes over 50 hours of initial training and requires 32 hours of training per year thereafter. Advocates are available 24 hours a day and every day of the year. They provide assistance in planning for a safe exit, maintaining survivor safety after leaving their abuser, help writing and filing protective orders, emergency housing, forensic exam support, and so much more. This commitment is a testament to our belief in the power of advocacy to bring about positive change. 

Whether through crisis intervention, legal advocacy, or medical support, our team is on the front lines, ensuring that survivors find their voices and reclaim their lives.

Sheltering Haven for Adults, Children
One of the cornerstones of our services is our Safe Housing Program, offering a safe haven for those unhoused due to intimate partner violence. In 2023, we’ve sheltered 73 adults and 57 children, providing them not just with a roof over their heads but with a supportive environment to rebuild their lives. DVSAS Safe Housing Advocates work with each client in our shelter program to help them get connected with the resources they need to transition into stable, safe, long-term housing, apply for food assistance, navigate the court and law enforcement systems that they may be engaging with to keep themselves and their children safe from further abuse. Each bednight we can provide to a survivor and their family represents a step towards safety and healing, and we are proud to have provided 7,100 bednights between January 1, 2023 and November 15, 2023.

At DVSAS, we understand that empowerment is a collaborative effort. Our shelter clients, on average, stay with us for 54 days. During this time, they receive not only a physical sanctuary, but also the emotional and psychological support necessary for their journey to independence. We believe in fostering resilience and self-determination in every individual we serve.

The Faces of Our Impact
Behind every statistic lies a story of triumph, strength, and resilience. One such story is that of Sarah*, a survivor who found solace in our emergency housing. Sarah’s journey from vulnerability to empowerment reflects the essence of our work.

“I am very grateful for the time I was accommodated at the shelter. It was more than I ever expected. DVSAS heard me when no one else would listen and nobody was there for me. The staff was very helpful, attentive and empathetic to my situation. Thank you for everything you did for me. You helped me through a very difficult time in my life,” shares Sarah.

Sarah’s experience echoes the sentiment shared by many who have found support through DVSAS. Our commitment goes beyond the numerical impact, reaching into the lives of those we serve, reminding them that they are not alone.

(*Name changed to protect the survivor’s privacy)

Community Partnerships
As we navigate the complex landscape of domestic violence, sexual assault, and exploitation, collaboration becomes paramount. DVSAS takes pride in leading the conversation in Whatcom County by partnering with other local service agencies including Lydia Place, Opportunity Council, Lummi Victims of Crime, and Bridget Collins or working with law enforcement agencies, legal systems, and policymakers on the state and local levels. Together, we form a united front against these abuses of power, working towards a community where safety and support are paramount.

Diversity and Inclusion
DVSAS serves a diverse range of individuals, irrespective of sexual orientation, ability, age, race, ethnicity, or gender. In 2023, we served over 1,200 individual clients, reflecting the inclusivity at the core of our mission. While most of our clients are women, many men and nonbinary survivors also utilize our services. We also recognize that we have a particular obligation to be responsive to the environmental factors in society that lead to a disproportionate rate of services accessed by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) survivors. Every survivor has similar struggles to overcome, but being a member of a marginalized community compounds the needs and the struggles. At DVSAS, we strive to recognize those additional barriers and work to remove any barriers that we may unintentionally add. Our doors are open to everyone, and our services are confidential and free of charge.

Future Free From Violence
As we celebrate the client successes of 2023, we look forward with optimism and determination. Our prevention education programs, community trainings, and workshops continue to sow the seeds of awareness and change. DVSAS remains committed to leading the charge in ending domestic violence, sexual assault, and commercial sexual exploitation.

The data we’ve shared today are not just statistics; they represent lives transformed, voices amplified, and futures reclaimed. As we stand on the precipice of a future free from violence, DVSAS reaffirms its dedication to being a beacon of hope, compassion, and empowerment for all those we serve.

Together, we are rewriting the narrative, one story of strength and resilience at a time. If you’re interested in learning more, volunteering, or connecting with our team, please visit our website or call 360-671-5714.  


Marjie George is the development director for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County. She has been an advocate for survivors for many years and is passionate about helping them tell their stories and helping the community support the work of DVSAS.

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