TESSA's mission is to help men, women and their children achieve safety and wellbeing while challenging communities to end sexual and family violence.
TESSA was established in May 1977 in response to the increasing number of calls to local law enforcement from women threatened or assaulted by their partners. At the time, Domestic Violence was considered a private matter and resources were difficult to locate, if they existed at all. With assistance from the 4th Judicial District Attorney and the El Pomar Foundation, TESSA started as an information provider and resource referral service. That initial effort has evolved into a multi-faceted agency that includes a confidential Safehouse, Victim Advocacy, Children's Programs, a 24/7 Crisis Line, and Community Outreach and Education. Through these efforts, TESSA strives to realize our vision of a safe community free of personal violence for all. Fundamentally, we do three things:
1. Provide immediate safety at our confidential Safehouse for women, children, and other victims escaping abuse.
2. Empower survivors through programs and support such as Advocacy and Counseling.
3. Create a safer future through Education and Outreach to schools, businesses, and other organizations.
Lucy is 61 years old. Lucy came to TESSA's Safehouse after enduring a 31 year marriage to an emotionally abusive man who manipulated every aspect of her life. Due to the isolation she suffered, Lucy never knew there was a safe place for her to go. She thought it was ok for a husband to abuse his wife - that her place was simply to do as she was told, take care of her husband, and maintain the home.
Lucy feared that she would be shamed or dismissed if she confided the realities of her home life to anyone. Thankfully, despite the isolation imposed on her by her abuser, Lucy was finally able to build a relationship with a neighbor who contacted Lucy's brother on her behalf. Lucy's brother contacted TESSA and received information, support and assistance through TESSA's Crisis Line that he was then able to share with his sister through her neighborhood confidante. Because of her brother's caring and persistence, Lucy was finally able to leave her abuser and find security and support at TESSA's Safehouse.
Lucy entered the Safehouse exhausted and ashamed.
She was quickly connected to a TESSA Therapist and worked through her recover in one-on-one counseling and weekly support groups. She learned about the dynamics of Domestic Violence and how to recognize healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. Most importantly, she learned that the violence against her was not OK and she was able to rebuild her damaged self-esteem.
TESSA's Therapists, Advocates, and Safehouse staff helped Lucy understand that a life of respect, peace, self-sufficiency, and equality is the inherent right of all women and children. This new understanding was the first step in dismissing the learned 'normality' of abuse and coercion that life with her husband had taught her.
With a renewed sense of self, Lucy returned to playing the guitar and singing, a passion she'd long ago been forced to abandon by her abuser. A generous donor responded to a request by TESSA staff for a guitar and gave Lucy the new 12-string she dubbed, 'Stella'. During her stay in the Safehouse Lucy performed for fellow survivors and staff as often as possible and even penned an original song, music and lyrics, which she dedicated to and recorded for TESSA staff.
Lucy has now relocated to another state to be close to the brother from whom she was forcefully estranged for three decades. Her divorce finalized, she is enjoying a zest for a life that she'd thought lost to her. Lucy's bravery, to act after 31 years of abuse, has been an inspiration to both staff and other Safehouse residents. She is a testament to the fact that it is never too late to seek out support, make changes, and build a life a safety and self-sufficiency.