Providing 'Safe Futures' for 40 years

"I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I thank ‘Safe Futures’ for saving my life".

Since 1976, this statement of gratitude has been uttered by thousands of men, women and children whose shattered lives were transformed from terror and fear to empowerment and hope because Safe Futures was there for them with emergency hot lines, safe shelters, counseling, transitional housing and court advocacy. The doors of Safe Futures have to stay open.

Forty years ago, the scourge of domestic violence, which affects one in four people in our country and poisons the futures of millions of children who are witnesses to or victims of the violence, was just starting to emerge from the shadows. Shrouded in fear and shame, compounded by ignorance of its dynamics, our laws and culture were just starting to wake up from centuries of accepting family violence as a private matter, to the point of not considering it a crime to rape one's spouse.

As a matrimonial attorney starting practice in the 1970s, I witnessed this transformation in our understanding and our laws. Connecticut was a pioneer in establishing new criminal and civil procedures. We changed our policing practices and the community’s response to domestic violence.

Founded in 1976 as the Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, Safe Futures began as an information and referral service for women entering the workplace. But its founders soon realized that their mission had to be dramatically changed when most of their calls were from victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Society has made progress, but there is still a long way to go. The U.S. Surgeon General has designated domestic violence as an epidemic and one of the most serious health crises in America.

We cannot be satisfied. Not when four people are murdered every day by a spouse or significant other. Not when one in five of our teenage and college-age daughters will be victimized by dating violence and rape. And not when, every few seconds, someone in America is abused.

We must continue to confront a culture of violence in our politics and society.

We need agencies like Safe Futures to be fully funded and supported so they can continue their life-saving work. They are funded primarily through state and federal budgeting and grants, with about 25 percent of funding coming from businesses and individuals. Right now, government funding cuts threaten the maintenance of essential services and the very existence of Safe Futures to keep its doors open.

In the past year, Safe Futures saved lives, restored hope and changed the future for over 5,000 people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault in southeastern Connecticut. Safe Futures saved the lives of 327 people whom law enforcement had identified as being at high risk of homicide in the home, while 170 people sought refuge in its safe house last year.

Through the Violence is Preventable program, the future was changed for 5,600 children in 25 local schools who were taught how to deal with violence in their own situations and how to establish healthy relationships.

Through my work as an attorney, I have appreciated the importance of Safe Futures, including its court advocacy for victims. When a client was murdered by her husband in 2004 during a divorce case, despite the protections of a restraining order and custody orders in place, I established a memorial fund in her memory, dedicated to advancing education and awareness to the criminal justice, medical and general communities. The Rose Conrad Memorial Fund and its programs were incorporated into Safe Futures. In 2013, we established the Power of Purple Campaign in partnership with Safe Futures and Hadassah of Eastern Connecticut. We cannot let Safe Futures down.

To commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Safe Futures and the designation of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, on Sunday, October 15, there will be a Safe Futures 40th Anniversary 4K Power of Purple Walk in the Crystal Mall starting at 9 a.m. Everyone in the community is invited to join and bring teams and sponsors to the Walk.

The website will have information on registering for the walk, donating and sponsoring. Call 860-447-0366 Ext. 220 for information. Send donations to Safe Futures, 16 Jay St. New London, Ct. 06320.

Remember the Hot Line number: 860-701-6000.

As Safe Futures has come to the rescue of so many lives over the past 40 years, our southeastern Connecticut community must now come to theirs.

Sheila S. Horvitz is an attorney and an occasional contributor to The Day’s Opinion pages. She lives in Colchester.



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