Safe Shelter executive director speaks about domestic violence
Safe Shelter provides a wide range of services.
Mary’s Place at Safe Shelter has sheltered many victims who have been forced to leave their homes because of domestic violence since it opened in June 2018, according to Lynne Tally, Safe Shelter executive director.
“The day we opened the shelter we were almost full,” Tally said. “We have stayed consistently full or mostly full since that time.”
Tally was a guest speaker for the Stutsman County Human Rights Coalition and spoke about Safe Shelter and domestic and sexual violence Thursday, Oct. 21, at The Arts Center in Jamestown.
Tally said last week was the week of action for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
Mary’s Place at Safe Shelter includes two one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom apartment and provides shelter, resources and other services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Jamestown area.
Tally said Safe Shelter helps individuals apply for food stamps, housing assistance and for funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Staff also refer individuals for counseling, mental health or addiction services.
“We can help them with legal things with the hope that we can get them back on their feet and back to living their lives free from the violence that they experienced in their home,” she said.
Tally said Safe Shelter provides a wide range of services including:
- a 24-hour crisis line so someone is always available.
- emergency shelter and longer-term temporary safe housing for those who have fled the abuse.
- advocacy services that are meant to encourage and to empower and not to direct or control.
- a support group that meets weekly that helps victims and others who have experienced violence.
- assistance in obtaining protection orders from courts and developing safety plans for home, work and sometimes even for church.
- relocating and sometimes offering help with rent and utility deposits.
Tally said Safe Shelter worked with 82 new victims last year and about 40 ongoing cases
Tally said Safe Shelter was “very quiet” during the coronavirus pandemic from March to August and believes it was because victims were with an abuser who had 24/7 access to them.
“They didn't have the opportunity to reach out to us for that help,” she said.
When Tally first started at Safe Shelter in 1981, she said the shelter worked with 15 victims. In her first 10 years, she said the victim count increased exponentially.
At one time, Safe Shelter was serving between 175 to 250 people every year for about eight to 10 years, she said. The number of victims leveled out a little, she said because Safe Shelter began working with law enforcement and did more community education.
“I like to think in the 40 years we have reduced violence in the community,” she said.
Safe Shelter helps children and young people, especially those who are experiencing violence in their homes, understand that they can grow up to not be a victim or abuser despite what is being witnessed at home. She said staff go to schools and speak to young individuals about respecting each other, what should be expected in a healthy relationship and what to not tolerate.
“We help them understand or we try to (help them) understand that no one has the right to control and abuse them and neither does anyone have the right to control and abuse others,” she said.
Safe Shelter works with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors of people suffering from violent relationships and helps them understand how important it is to continue to support that victim even when it is really frustrating and even when it seems hopeless, she said.
“We will tell the mother to listen to the daughter when she is telling her about the abuse and to believe her because oftentimes abusers can be very charming and very convincing that they are a good person in a relationship,” Tally said. “We suggest to a neighbor that they help their neighbor come up with some kind of safety plan.
“It could be something as simple as coming up with a signal for when things are bad and the police need to be called, flashing a porch light or making a phone call that seems innocent that has a signal word in it that will help that neighbor with that friend relative to taking some action.”
Safe Shelter also speaks with employers and coworkers about making the workplace safer especially after the victim has left an abusive relationship. Tally said the majority of women who are murdered by their abusers are killed when they are attempting to leave or after they have left an abusive relationship because the abuser’s control is being challenged.
She said staff speak at events about how violent relationships are centered on power and control. She said she explains how cultural, legal and religious histories have condoned violence, especially violence against women for centuries and how important it is to challenge that history and not be tempted to minimize it or pretend that somehow victims deserve the abuse that they receive.
She said people stay in violent relationships because they don’t feel safe or supported to escape.
“We try to get people to change the narrative from 'why did she stay' or 'why do people stay in violent relationships’ to 'why would anyone think they have the right to abuse or control another person,'" she said.
Communities are challenged to stop blaming victims and hold abusers accountable, she said.