Safeline Offers Support and Services

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Communities / Apr. 30, 2015 10:56am EDT

By Sarah Caouette


Pictured (l-r) are Sue Perrault, legal advocate; Linda Ingold, executive director; Justina Kenyon, empowerment coordinator; and Judy Szeg, program educator and volunteer coordinator. (Herald / Sarah Caouette) Pictured (l-r) are Sue Perrault, legal advocate; Linda Ingold, executive director; Justina Kenyon, empowerment coordinator; and Judy Szeg, program educator and volunteer coordinator. (Herald / Sarah Caouette) According to the Vermont Center for Justice Research, an average of 1199 domestic violence incidents are reported to the Vermont police every year—and 50% of all Vermont homicides are related to this type of violence.

Talking about abuse in any form—whether it is sexual, physical, or emotional—is a difficult conversation to have, let alone start. That’s why Safeline is making it a part of its mission to provide direct services, outreach and advocacy to the communities it serves, in hopes of preventing and ending domestic violence.

Safeline began in the 1980s in grassroots fashion, when a group of women recognized abuse was happening around them and to people they knew—to neighbors and friends. At the time, there were little to no supports in place for victims and survivors that were locallybased and easily accessible.

The group began by helping victims escape dangerous situations, and evolved as they saw the imperative and need for crisis management services; and so, the 24-hour Safeline hotline was born. Today, Safeline is a multi-faceted operation, offering support and services to 22 towns in Orange County and northern Windsor County.

“Our goal is to create long-term and healthy relationships toward self-sufficiency,” said Justina Kenyon, Safeline’s Empowerment Coordinator.

New to this position, Kenyon was hired to develop programming focused on job-readiness, education, and financial services for survivors of domestic abuse. Having recently received a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women, as well as an Education on the Road grant from the Mascoma Savings Bank Foundation, Safeline has been able to cover lots of ground. Partnering w/ Libraries

“We’ve created informational binders for every library in Orange County,” said Sue Perrault, in-house Legal Advocate for Safeline. “This includes a bibliography on recommended reading material dealing with the subject of abuse.”

Perrault handles mostly protection and stalking orders, and provides clarification on paperwork surrounding domestic abuse cases, including conditions and legalities of divorce agreements. She has also paired up with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to do presentations to parents and children about what abuse looks like, signs of detection, how to be an “active bystander,” and who can be contacted if someone is suspected of or known to be in an unsafe situation.

“Libraries are great learning centers and venues,” explained Linda Ingold, executive director, having had a good response at these presentations thus far.

As an excellent place to start a forum, the libraries who have hosted Safeline events in the past have picked the topics covered. Whether it is about teen dating, healthy relationships, sexting, or online safety, Safeline has been able to facilitate these hard-to-have discussions.

At area-schools and with youth groups, Safeline advocates encourage asking questions, and no topic is off limits.

“There’s danger in not talking about these things, and keeping them hidden,” Ingold believes.

Domestic Violence

In cases of domestic violence, Safeline’s aim is to resolve the immediate needs of a victim or victims, then stick by them through the steps of finding housing, securing a job, and getting back on their feet.

“I think the relationship between Safeline and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office—how we work together to get these women and children out of their situations and into a better place—is setting an example for the area and how these sensitive matters should be handled,” said Sheriff Bill Bonyak.

Once the survivors are safe and stability is reestablished, Safeline’s other wraparound services are provided— developing a resume, creating a budget, strengthening job readiness skills, setting financial goals, and locating options to further education.

Also coming up, Safeline will launch a new initiative called, “Healthy Food, Healthy Finances,” offering cooking workshops.

The classes will mainly focus on meal planning and budgeting—but it will also give women an opportunity to be in a social situation, and share “tips and tricks” on being resourceful.

“So much of domestic violence has to deal with isolation,” explained Kenyon. “So, whenever we can get women together where they can feel safe and build a community, we want to be able to provide that.”

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and there are many ways to be involved and learn more about the resources available.

“People can donate and volunteer in many interesting ways,” noted Judy Szeg, Program Educator and Volunteer Coordinator. For the past two years, the owner of the Fairlee Marina has donated a day on a pontoon boat to raffle off for fundraising events, while others have chosen to represent Safeline at Town Meeting Day.

To find out more about how to get involved, visit www.safelinevt.org.

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