Rising Resilience

Empower Tehama Builds Hope and Transforms Lives…

While we pay special attention to women’s issues in March, a North State nonprofit keeps itself focused on empowerment and healing throughout the year, supporting those embroiled in what many don’t want to admit is a community problem: domestic violence and sexual assault. Empower Tehama, formerly known as Alternatives to Violence, is expanding its services to meet growing needs.

“We’ve been here since 1994; it’s actually our 30th year,” says Jennifer Moniz, Outreach and Prevention Manager. “To be able to sustain in our community as a nonprofit for so long I think speaks to our need. We’re showing up for people at their worst time and meeting them where they’re at.”

Photo courtesy of Empower Tehama.

Empower Tehama provides wraparound services that run the gamut of supports for both victims/survivors and perpetrators. Their emergency services include a safe house for those escaping immediate violence, as well as advocacy for those reporting sexual assault that can include hospital support and the services of a trained sexual assault response nurse who can collect evidence for prosecution. Empower Tehama provides therapeutic services, legal advocacy and prevention services to break the cycle of violence in the community. It also provides dedicated services to children impacted by violence.

They also provide anger management courses taught by certified trainers to those mandated by the court to attend. “If we don’t work with people who abuse people, we keep perpetuating the problem,” says Moniz. Project Restore works with those 15-30 years old involved in the criminal justice system.

Executive Director Michaele Brown came to Empower Tehama in 2018 after a 21-year career in county drug and alcohol and mental health services. “I had seen a lot in county services,” she says. “I’d had a rich variety of experiences and learned a lot. I really liked the opportunity to build a clinical program almost from the ground up that is not tied to Medi-Cal billing.” In her initial role as clinical director, she increased the number of clinicians on site and expanded the contracts with higher learning institutions so local students have a place to complete the clinical hours of their practicums.

Executive Director Michaele Brown. Photo courtesy of Empower Tehama.

Upon taking on the role as executive director in 2022, she looks forward to expanding exponentially on the existing counseling programs, which have included multilingual services and expansion to the south county area. “At the end of the day, I’m a social worker,” she says. “We do have a reputation of really thinking outside the box when it comes to truly helping victims of abuse. It really takes a heart for the victims we serve.”

Key to the success is development of a talented and committed staff. “I’m very proud of the people who work here, the staff that we’ve been able to build,” she adds. “The passion to work here is a drawing force.”

Jennifer Moniz is an example of that passion. “My heart really lies in the prevention piece,” she says. “Early intervention is just a priority in helping our community.” Moniz coordinates annual campaigns for awareness of sexual assault, teen dating violence, domestic violence, human trafficking and stalking, and supports staff working with teens at Salisbury and Red Bluff High Schools. “We’re seeing as many students as we can,” she adds. Moniz came to the work after burning out as a small business owner. “I just decided my passion was helping people,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like a job. It’s a mission I care about dearly.”

Both Moniz and Brown agree that the success of Empower Tehama is inextricably linked to its relationships within the community. “It was this grassroots program that started with people taking victims into their homes,” says Moniz. Now, says Brown, as services have expanded, “I feel like we have a really good relationship with our local victim witness program, district attorney and law enforcement.” Local businesses have stepped up to raise funds for the organization, and strategic partnerships have expanded services throughout the county.

“We do things behind the scenes and quietly, but if you need the services we are there,” says Moniz. The picture isn’t pretty when they try to imagine the community without these services. “It is so far reaching,” Brown says of the impacts of family violence and sexual assault. “It really does impact a person’s ability to reach their full potential.”

Photo courtesy of Empower Tehama.

While both Brown and Moniz guide Empower Tehama to meet the multi-faceted needs of their community, Brown says, “each of us has the power to make a difference. We may not be the most vocal, the best public speaker, but we all have a sphere of influence.” Using that sphere of emphasis can empower not only Tehama, but the whole North State. •

Empower Tehama •

About Melissa Mendonca

Melissa is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.

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