State of Safe Passage

A Message from the Executive Director – Marianne Winters

It's all about hope. An emerging body of research affirms what our guts already tell us – that all of our interventions, counseling, advocacy, shelter, programs, and support groups are essentially about nurturing hope. At Safe Passage, hope is in our DNA. That's why we spent this year creating a five-year roadmap to plan our organization's future in response to the needs survivors have expressed to us.

Many people think that the work of Safe Passage is to help people look back – back at the abuse, the terror, the isolation and chaos. In reality our job is to help people look forward. We are ready companions for domestic violence survivors who may not yet be able to see a new future for themselves and their children. Our job requires an abundance of hope and an unwavering belief in new possibilities.

During fiscal year 2014, we kept this hope alive through our programs, which:

• Provided services to 1,420 adults and children who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence

• Sheltered 50 families

• Answered more than 2,700 hotline calls

• Provided 2,210 individual counseling and advocacy

• Helped 108 survivors get necessary legal help

• Provided 231 hours of support groups

• Expanded our Say Something Prevention Program

• Partnered with the Hilltown Community Health Centers' Hilltown Safety at Home to expand services to rural survivors of domestic violence

We also celebrate these less visible accomplishments. Safe Passage has:

• Increased board size, training, and engagement

• Expanded our staff development and training program

• Enhanced staff benefits with an eye toward longevity and staff quality

As Executive Director, I lead Safe Passage's work. It is my job to work collaboratively on our challenges, invite everyone to celebrate our successes, and offer a constant flow of hope – for our survivors, our community, and for all who contribute their time and energy to our organization. We thank you for your involvement in Safe Passage, and for everything that you make possible by supporting our work.

A Message from the Board President - Diane Curtis

At the Safe Passage annual meeting last June, the assembled board members, staff, and volunteers got the chance to view an incredible new video: a compilation of oral histories of some of the founders and early staff members and volunteers at Safe Passage (then called Necessities/Necesidades). UMass Professor Laura Lovett's oral history students conducted the interviews and put together the video presentation, and we watched it, appropriately enough, at the Smith College Women's History Archives, with oral historian and Safe Passage Board member Kelly Anderson as our host.

It's a good practice for any organization to be periodically reminded of its origins. For those of us working in the fields of domestic violence and sexual assault, it's especially important, since so much has changed in such a short period of time. Just 38 years ago, when Safe Passage was first founded, the response to domestic violence consisted of mostly volunteer organizations, providing safe houses and informal support to survivors. The work was often on a learn-as-you-go basis, and was virtually unrecognizable from today's practices: putting up women fleeing abuse in one's own home, contentious if not antagonistic relationships with local law enforcement, volunteer advocates engaging in life-risking behavior to keep women safe.

At the time, there were no "experts" in domestic violence because there wasn't yet such a field of expertise. Those early advocates at Safe Passage and other organizations were creating the field. Sociological and psychological research into the causes and effects of abuse had not yet been conducted, and there was not yet a sense of what it means to provide trauma-informed services. What those women did have, though, was an orientation toward the work grounded in astute feminist analysis and compassion for one another. They were immersed in a grassroots framework that demanded much of them personally, but also provided an immense amount to the women they worked with, and the broader community.

I felt nothing but gratitude and amazement as I watched the videos and listened to the stories. The work of decades ago provided such a strong foundation for the work our staff undertakes now.

Today, Safe Passage is fortunate to have a staff who remain infused with that grassroots spirit and social change analysis, and are deeply grounded in our community. But their work is also supported by their professional training and well-founded expertise. I am proud and grateful to be in the position to support staff with that combined commitment and experience – compassionate professionals who regularly learn both from their day-to-day work and from the growing body of research on domestic violence and sexual assault. .

It's thanks to our staff that our organization's aspiration to end interpersonal violence seems less like a pipe dream and more like a plan. We're collectively capable of bringing that vision of the future to life, because we've neither forgotten the past nor been trapped by it.

But that's not the whole story. After 38 years, Safe Passage has touched the lives of a tremendous number of people in our community, and that leads to its own rewards: People come up to our staff on the street, in cafes, at events to simply say, "Thank you. You helped me (or my sister/mother/aunt). I don't know what we would have done without you."

Your generosity has made Safe Passage strong and viable, which creates more safety, more justice for our clients, and allows us to dare to hold a vision of a violence-free Hampshire County.