EVANSTON — For the first time in its almost 40-year history, the non-profit agency SAFV (Sexual Assault and Family Violence) Task Force is led by a man. Trevor Rasmussen began his position as executive director in January.
“After serving in law enforcement for 30 years, I saw this position as an opportunity to help people and make a difference for the victims,” Rasmussen said. “It was also time for a life-change for me and a chance to learn and grow.”
Rasmussen more recently served as chief of police in Mountain View for three years and, prior to that, he was an officer with the Evanston Police Department and a deputy with the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office. During his tenure as a law enforcement officer, Rasmussen said, he was on the other side of domestic disputes, dealing mostly with the perpetrator, and now he hopes to become an advocate for the victims.
Rasmussen still serves as a reserve officer in Mountain View and has been asked to provide training on his program at the law enforcement academy. He has also been asked to help legislators draw up bills that would help programs similar to SAFV.
“I hope my being in this position bridges the gap between law enforcement and social services and helps to establish a middle ground,” Rasmussen said. “There is a lot of gravity with this job — it is difficult and very involved. I depend a lot on Jesse Barnes who has been with SAFV for over eight years. I want to give employees a little more responsibility so they can grow and take over if I’m gone. Jesse is my administrative assistant, a trainer, an advocate and the shelter manager, so she knows all about the details of this organization.”
SAFV is in the process of hiring another full-time employee and already has one part-time person working in the office. The program enlists the help of volunteers and currently has three certified volunteers who have received training. SAFV is governed by a local board of directors which oversee the program.
According to Rasmussen, the team is in the process of reorganizing and restructuring the organization with a different perspective. The plan is to get more men involved in the program, he said, adding that men need to play a part in the solution to domestic violence. A future plan is to hold a “gentleman’s night” for men in the community to provide education and build cooperation.
A main emphasis for SAFV is to assist victims to become self-advocates and to be able to reach out themselves to find resources and to gain financial independence. As part of this process, SAFV has purchased computers that clients can check out and take home in order to facilitate seeking resources and information themselves.
Another program SAFV offers is classes on how to gain financial independence. The course has been sponsored through a grant from Allstate. Clients attend live instruction taught by local business leaders; once a week for eight weeks. Recently, local businessman Dan Wheeler provided a class on identity theft and how to protect from that ever-growing crime. Allstate also has made an offer for the first client to establish a savings account of $500, Allstate will match it with another $500.
“When I was chief of police, it was like driving a race car,” Rasmussen said. “Being behind this desk at SAFV is like being on a fighter jet. The challenge of the job is grant writing when you are working with such a wide diversity of people. One size does not fit all; victims come from all walks of life. There are no educational or economical boundaries.”
Domestic violence is very prevalent in society today and the isolation that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rasmussen said, helped to exacerbate the problem. SAFV is running at capacity — both with resources and manpower and there is tough competition for funding. Rasmussen said they plan to recruit and train more volunteers. They hope to become more visible and recognizable to the public. He said the program works closely with the circuit court and Judge Michael Greer and networks with other agencies.
The ability to leave a positive footprint on the life of somebody who is in a vulnerable place, so they can move forward is what Rasmussen said he likes best about the job.
“We at SAFV need to have a positive mindset,” Rasmussen said, “Failure is not an option, we are going to make it better. It’s all about attitude and approach, be direct and cultivate relationships, and use rational brainstorming to arrive at solutions.”