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Founded in 1984, The Initiative (previously known as the Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities or DVI) is the only organization in Colorado that focuses our services on the intersection of cross-disability issues and abuse. “Cross-disability” means that we serve people with all kinds of disabilities, including physical, sensory, cognitive, developmental, mental-health, and health-related. Through our advocacy and outreach programs, The Initiative strives to create an abuse-free culture for all.
We weren’t always known as The Initiative. Back in 1985, our organization began as The Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities, commonly known as DVI. In 2016, the organization came to an important realization: our name no longer reflected who we were, and where we wanted to go.
For one, we are proud to serve victims who are experiencing many forms of abuse. While the organization may have originally focused solely on domestic violence, today we serve victims of sexual assault, family violence, human trafficking, elder abuse, stalking, and caregiver abuse. The name “Domestic Violence Initiative” did not reflect the variety of our services. And while the majority of our clients are women, we provide advocacy to all genders, making “The Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities” an inaccurate representation of who we serve. After a period of strategic planning, The Initiative was born.
The Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities (DVI) was founded by disability activists Sharon Hickman and Laura Hershey in 1984. Ms. Hickman first opened a nonprofit called HOW (Handicapped Organized Women) as a part of the national chapter to provide individual advocacy to women with disabilities. Ms. Hickman quickly realized that abuse was a common issue for all of the women being served. When she looked into domestic violence resources, she found that all of them were set up for able-bodied women.
Driven into action by this huge gap in victim services, HOW transformed to Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with disabilities with the second program of outreach was developed to address systemic issues of accessibility in the community. Ms. Hickman and Ms. Hershey started DVI with assistance from a Mile High United Way and Denver Victim Assistance Law Enforcement (VALE). For over 30 years, DVI has been providing direct services to victims, as well as conducting outreach and training opportunities for communities throughout the State of Colorado to raise awareness on the issue of disability and abuse. Though we are now known as The Initiative, we deeply honor our past and work to live up to the legacy left by Sharon Hickman and Laura Hershey.