We all know someone who is affected by domestic violence. A neighbor. A co-worker. Perhaps a friend, or even a family member.
Published: July 31, 2018
By: Paige Townley
Though we may not realize it, we all know someone who is affected by domestic violence. A neighbor. A co-worker. Perhaps a friend, or even a family member. In fact, one in three women and one in four men have been the victim of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their life.
The sad fact is, domestic violence is often a silent crime – it’s not talked about, it’s not typically witnessed, and no one ever wants to think it could happen to them or someone they know. Yet it happens every day, and it’s those victims SafeHouse works so tirelessly to help.
SafeHouse was started by a group of volunteers in 1989 that identified the need in the community to house victims who were fleeing domestic violence. From there, it expanded to include victims and survivors of sexual violence as well. “We soon saw the need for helping victims of sexual violence,” says Dotti Bailey, SafeHouse executive director Dotti Bailey. “A lot of times, domestic violence and sexual violence go hand in hand.”
The housing has changed and grown over the years. Today, SafeHouse operates a 56-bed emergency shelter that accommodates survivors and their children. The facility is staffed 24 hours a day and utilizes a 24-hour crisis line so that they can help anyone at any time. “The needs of each and every victim who comes to us are different, and we do our best to accommodate that,” Bailey says. “Sometimes they just need to stay for a little while to get situated, or they may not need to stay long at all because they have a support system with family or friends they can stay with. It could just be a safety issue where the abuser hasn’t gone through the court process yet, so they need to stay until that happens.”
In addition to providing a safe place to stay, the nonprofit organization also focuses on offering comprehensive services to those they serve. Those services include advocacy and support through offerings like group counseling, legal advocacy, referrals, and case management. “We offer pretty much anything they need to start their life free from abuse,” Bailey says. “Research shows that a victim may leave five to seven times before they leave for good. We utilize every opportunity we have to show them that there are options available. They do have a choice.”
Those comprehensive services can be utilized by domestic and sexual violence survivors whether they are staying at SafeHouse or not. Safe Shelby, a new clinic for people ages 14 and up who have been sexually assaulted, has nurses and advocates on call 24 hours a day who can provide forensic exams and evidence collection for someone who has been sexually assaulted. The clinic also has a counselor on hand who does group and individual counseling.
“The clinic is confidential and private, and it’s much more comfortable than having to go to the hospital,” Bailey adds. “We try to put someone at ease and really take into consideration what that person has experienced. And it’s great because, with all of the services the clinic offers, we can support the person throughout the entire process and help them navigate the challenges if it does go on through the court system.”
This past year alone, SafeHouse has received more than 2,500 calls for help on its crisis line and provided emergency shelter to nearly 300 victims and their children. More than 600 victims have received SafeHouse’s services through its community outreach services and SafeShelby.
While the organization is helping every survivor it can, it hopes to reduce the need for their services by continuing to focus on its prevention education program – which takes the topic to schools and community youth – and its professional training, which is designed for all members of the community. But until then, SafeHouse will continue to stand up and help those in need. “Domestic and sexual violence is unlike any other crime,” Bailey says. “They are very personal in nature. They really do get at the core of your being. To help someone potentially find their way through – to experience that healing and recovery process – is huge.”
Paige Townley is a Birmingham freelance writer.