VARO is a non-profit volunteer corporation that provides services to victims and families of Domestic violence, Sexual assault, Abuse, Violent crime and traumatic events. VARO also provides outreaches and education the dynamics of violence to the larger community.
Victim services include intervention/advocacy, emergency shelter, food, clothing, transportation, personal hygiene, and other services. Community education includes public outreaches at shopping centers, presentations in the school and work settings and other awareness events in an effort to promote ongoing awareness on the dynamics of violence. We are here to serve you!
VARO services victims of violence regardless of sex, age, color, gender, religion, income, sexual orientation or age.
It is our mission respond to all victims of violent crime and trauma, and to elevate the stature of women and children on our island, those most often victimized by physical and sexual abuse. It is our hope that through our services of intervention, education and awareness we will lessen the need for crisis intervention for future generations.
Background on VARO by Beverly Paulk
Gene Tinelli, U.S. Navy psychiatrist and neighbor, and I were standing in my driveway talking about living on Guam in late summer 1981. We both loved the people, the diving, and the scenic beauty. He thought that one of the critical services missing on island in both the civilian and military communities was an organized response to the serious and prevalent problem of sexual assault and abuse. I mentioned that I had been part of a response and prevention program in Virginia as a founder and then executive director. Then I said that we could do something similar on Guam, just modified to fit the island culture and the transient military staff. Education was the key. CARO, though not named for several months, was born. He said that he knew of male survivors, but many more female ones, both civilian and military.
As we began, people throughout the island were helpful and supportive to this new idea. The newspaper and radio stations first publicized the need for counselors for the training course. From the beginning we wanted at least half the volunteers to be permanent residents, and to involve active duty military and temporary civilians for the remainder. We established procedures with the hospitals, court system, and the law enforcement before the volunteer training started, so the systems could work smoothly for survivors from the start. The emergency room staff and the court system staff were cooperative. One of the judges instructed all staff to work with us, and one of his relatives took the first course.
Each of the volunteer groups was amazing, full of talented, articulate, caring people. The first group was more than 25 people of all ages. We shared many personal stories, with confidentiality being respected. Here we could talk about incest, a prevalent but seldom-discussed problem for local girls and women. A few men were in later groups, but I am unclear about the first group. Successive groups were 15-20. We offered 2-3 courses for two days each and then had follow-up sessions before I had to leave the island. A light note: The governor’s wife, Madeleine(?), joined us at least once for the last hour to thank people and distribute the completion certificates.
I remember taking the monthly volunteer schedules to the emergency rooms/clinics, police department, and the courthouse. Volunteers generously took duty at least twice during each month, usually in pairs. Our volunteers or people we trained were very helpful to the survivors and family members in several situations, both military and civilian. One of more frustrating issues was for volunteers not to be utilized, when we knew situations were occurring. The system before the internet worked fairly well, but seems basic today. We also did training sessions for law enforcement, social workers/hospital workers, Air Force and Navy groups, plus a couple of parent groups at schools. A professional half-hour film was made for Family Services that addressed the issue.
As an aside, I still can picture walking the police department hallways with a Major Munuz(?). Naked or scantily covered women were in huge posters or pictures everywhere. It created a bizarre environment for discussions, survivors, staff, and volunteers. It was very telling as to the stereotypes and attitudes prevalent at that time. I hope attitudes and professional behavior have improved.
Several people accepted critical responsibilities along the way for the CARO/VARO program. Liz and John Duenas accepted key leadership roles as I left. Together you will be able to fill in the names and contributions of many of the other wonderful volunteers. Think of all of the people you have helped by continuing the program! My getting to know people through this effort was a privilege. Congratulations and thank you.
I hope this information provided some of the missing early pieces. I am very proud of your work these many years. You have my best wishes to each of you and for your collective success.