New director at SAFV
Jesse Barnes’personal and professional experience makes her the perfect choice for her new position as Executive Director of the Sexual Assault and Family Violence Task Force (SAFV). Barnes has been with SAFV for nine years, since 2014, serving as a victim’s advocate. Barnes’ passion and dedication to providing services and advocating for victims of domestic violence has gained her respect and admiration in the community.
Barnes was born in Rock Springs but while she was still an infant her family moved to Evanston where her father worked in the oil field. Struggling in high school, Barnes dropped out her sophomore year. She then lived with an aunt in Denver, Colorado, where she attended the Emily Griffith Opportunity School and earned her high school diploma and a G.E.D. in 1995.
“Attending an alternative school helped me think outside the box,” Barnes said. “I had a mentor from the Colorado Youth At-Risk program and she was wonderful. I was a teen mom and she provided lots of support and encouragement. I still keep in touch with her.”
Barnes said that other women have provided support and encouragement for her throughout her life. She still remembers the names of her eight grade English teacher, Sharon Goodfellow and her ninth grade English teacher, Kathy Steen, because they both kept in touch with her when she left Evanston and would send her books.
While in Denver at the alternative school, Barnes did a six-month internship at the Colorado State Capitol with a legislator. She also volunteered as a mentor for children which led to her writing a children’s book about a little boy who becomes an astronaut. Her father illustrated the book for her.
Barnes returned to Evanston in 2003 because she wanted to raise her two children in a smaller town. All of the personal and volunteer experience she gained while living in Denver led her to apply for an AmeriCorps Vista position with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). Youth Services Director Grace Zolnosky hired her to help with the after-school program where she was responsible for activities and some tutoring.
When that job ended in 2013, Barnes moved to Ogden at the encouragement of her brother who lived there. In Ogden, Barnes got a job at Waterfall Canyon Academy working with children with learning difficulties and at-risk problems. After working there for one year, she returned to Evanston and went to work as a victim’s advocate with SAFV.
In 2019, Barnes was recognized as Outstanding Advocate by the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
When previous director Trevor Rasmussen left to take a position as undersheriff with the Uinta County Sheriff’s Department, Barnes said the SAFV Board of Directors offered her the position of executive director because “I know the whole program.” She said the transition to the director’s position went very well.
In her new position as director, Barnes supervises three advocates, one in Bridger Valley and two in Evanston. The SAFV office in the valley is located at the Lyman Police Department. Currently, SAFV has five volunteers who provide direct services.
Since July 2022, SAFV has provided clients shelter for 114 nights, with six weeks being the average length of stay for someone in the shelter. SAFV helps the client find housing, a job, develop a safety plan, find resources, secure counseling and also provides free financial counseling for eight weeks.
“Securing housing is the biggest issue in Evanston,” Barnes said. “It is even harder to find in the Valley.”
Enrolled in her third semester at Western Wyoming Community College, Barnes plans to eventually earn a B.S. in Criminal Justice. She said she is currently writing a persuasive paper in her English class on educating children K—12 on how to have healthy relationships.
One of Barnes’ goals for SAFV is to develop a mentoring program for women who have come out of abusive relationships to learn what a healthy relationship looks like. She also plans to build strong cooperation with other agencies, recruit more volunteers, and provide more education in schools and in the broader community.
“February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month,” Barnes said. “SAFV will be at Horizon High School one morning in February, wearing orange to honor a teen girl who was murdered by her date. Orange was her favorite color.”
In May, Barnes said, SAFV along with Victim Services will be showing a film on sex extortion at the Strand Theatre. In July, SAFV will take the film on “Not My Life” about human trafficking, recently shown in Evanston, to Bridger Valley.
Concerning to her new position, Barnes said, “I’m scared but I have good people working with me. I don’t have to do it alone.”