CHICAGO, IL (September 13, 2018) – Yvonne DeVaughn, who has guided the Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA) ministry for the past 10 years, will step down as its director at the end of this month.
The ECC’s Women Ministries launched AVA in 2004. The ministry has helped raise awareness of domestic violence and improve how churches respond to victims.
“God created women and men in the image of God, equal in dignity, worth, rights, and authority,” DeVaughn said. “Any form of violation or abuse is an attack on someone created in the image of God.”
DeVaughn, a survivor of years of incest by her stepfather, drew on her own experiences of shame and confusion and found healing and a voice to educate others. She has trained hundreds of people in regional conferences and local churches. The ministry has spread not only throughout North America, but an AVA component is now being developed at CHET, the Covenant’s Hispanic Training Center, to spread the ministry to Hispanic pastors. There are AVA-trained leaders in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.
“Yvonne’s contribution to AVA is immeasurable,” said Meagan Gillan, director of Women Ministries. “Her faithfulness, dedication, heart for people of all ages, and her incredible work ethic are all characteristic of her sweet walk with Jesus. Her willingness to let her own testimony speak to the lives of survivors is powerful.”
Michelle Sanchez, executive minister of Make and Deepen Disciples, added, “Yvonne has opened doors of healing and wholeness to many in the Covenant Church. Especially in this #MeToo season, I am pleased that we have a way to talk about and heal from abuse as we grow as disciples of Jesus.”
Hearing from those who have been able to break their silence and pursue healing over the past 10 years has been the most rewarding part for DeVaughn. “They have said it was so important to know that they weren’t the only ones,” she said. “It helped them feel validated that what has happened to them is wrong.”
Training others to spot abuse and support victims also has been a key accomplishment for DeVaughn. In addition to developing workshops for advocates, she also created workshops for teens and youth workers, as well as an online curriculum for ministers. “I’d never done anything like that, but pastors and others have said it was useful.”
As awareness has grown through the #MeToo movement, the response of Covenant churches to victims of violence abuse has “absolutely improved” in the past year, DeVaughn said. But much work remains to be done, she says, and congregations need to be safe places for all people.
Although AVA began as a ministry to female victims of abuse, the ministry increasingly turned addressed issues of abuse that have affected men and boys. “They also have suffered,” DeVaughn said.
DeVaughn, who also is an artist and a gospel singer, said she is considering how she might be able to help victims through art therapy.
Although she will no longer serve as the director of AVA, she has offered to continue as a regional coordinator in the Pacific Southwest Conference where she lives. “I’ll be doing this work until I die,” she said. “It’s who I am.”
As DeVaughn concludes her tenure, Gillan will initially give leadership guidance to AVA.