By Gaye Bunderson
Editor’s note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we thought a brief interview with Kim Deugan, executive director of Advocates Against Family Violence, would be in order – to honor the victims of domestic abuse in Idaho and elsewhere and to let those currently experiencing abuse know there is hope and help.
Q. How long have you been with Advocates Against Family Violence?
A. I have had the honor of serving with AAFV for 11 years now.
Q. Can you briefly explain what AAFV does?
A. AAFV works to provide hope, healing, and strength to victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Our mission is to eliminate violence and abuse from the lives of allindividuals. We provide advocacy, support, emergency shelter, housing, education, and awareness through our 14 programs and classes.
Q. What made you want to get involved?
A. I’m a survivor (of abuse). I thought if I could help just one other person then my journey would have been worth it. I remember my first year working here we reported providing 1,700 services. This past year, 2019, through all of our programs and classes we provided over 60,000 victim services. We are truly reaching those victimized by domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Q. Do you feel the Lord led you to this job, and why?
A. Absolutely! I know I would not have pursued a position like this on my own. I’m a firm believer in Him calling us to our positions in life. We just have tobe obedient and really listen to Him. I know that God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called, and He has certainly had to qualify me throughout the last 11 years.
Q. Could you share your testimony with our readers?
A. When I said “I do,” I thought I was going to be living the life I had always dreamed of. I would have my fairytale, the one that all little girls dream of having one day. But, much to my surprise, that is not how it turned out. Shortly after the “I do’s,” it became apparent to me that this was not going to be the case.
We were married for 15 years, living through one lawsuit, one eviction, and one repossession to the next, not to mention the countless extramarital affairs (his). I stayed, believing that all “good Christian wives” continue to pray and believe God for the miracle. I didn’t want our children coming from a broken home, not realizing it already was broken. I prayed every day for safety for me and my children.
Our last time in court was the final reckoning. My husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison. That began my journey as a true survivor. I didn’t understand victimization. Not until I attended a presentation at Harvest Life Church did I realize me and my children were victims of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse isn’t just physical, it’s mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual. After my awakening to this, I vowed to make a difference: if I could help just one person, that would make a difference. And that’s exactly what I did.
Now, 11 years later, I have had the honor of assisting those in the Treasure Valley impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. We are making a difference. We are empowering, providing hope, healing and strength to individuals on the journey to freedom.
Q. You must see some difficult things. Does your faith help you cope?
A. Yes, every day isa newjourney. We are witness to severe tragedies and sadness on a daily basis. However, we are also witness to amazing strength and dignity being restored to those we serve. Therein is the silver lining. Without my faith I know it would be a much harder calling. Every morning, me and Jesus have a chat on my way to work and I give the day and our campus to Him.
Q. Are you sometimes able to tell some of the people you deal with – both male and female – about the Lord, as a kind of witness?
A Absolutely! When they specifically ask me how I made it through, I’m able to share my testimony.
Q. Do you have a particular story about that?
A. When I firstbeganI was hired here as the housing coordinator and I was also teaching a Life Skills class. In that class I was able to share my testimony, my journey, and the new life I had because of Christ.
Q. Has the pandemic made abuse situations worse, or are there more of them?
A. The pandemic hascertainly not helped. We were concerned, especially through the stay-at-home order, that there would be no way for those being abused to reach out for services. We are seeing an up-tick in calls for services. Through our court program, we average 219 civil protection order hearings per month. Our counseling program has seen an up-tick in those reaching out as well because we are able to offer tele-health meetings.
Q. Do you intend to keep doing this work indefinitely, and why?
A. I keep telling the staffand our board of directors that I will probably die in my chair at work (laughing). I know that one day I will retire, but I will probably continue to volunteer and offer my love and support.
For more information, contact Advocates Against Family Violence at (208) 459-6330 or visit aafvhope.org.