Founded over 30 years ago, The Initiative (previously known as the Domestic Violence Initiative) 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, 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 also serve men and trans individuals, 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 over 30 years ago in 1985. Ms. Hickman was inspired to found the organization while working in a support service for women with disabilities. While the group had initially come together to support each other with their disabilities, Ms. Hickman quickly realized that abuse was a common issue for all of the women in the group. When she looked into domestic violence resources, she found that all of them were set up for abled-bodied women.
Driven into action by this huge gap in victim services, Ms. Hickman and Ms. Hershey founded DVI to address both disability issues and criminal justice needs for victims of abuse. Ms. Hickman and Ms. Hershey started DVI with assistance from a Mile High United Way Grant and a grant from the Denver Victim Assistance Law Enforcement (VALE) Board. For 31 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.