Advocate of the Month: November 2014

Advocate of the Month: November 2014

Lindsey is November’s Advocate of the Month! Lindsey was nominated by her co-workers for her client-centered, comprehensive work on the On-Call Response Line. Lindsey has done an incredible job ensuring that the most vulnerable clients’ needs are met quickly and efficiently through the Lethality Assessment Project (LAP).  Lindsey’s great work ethic and dedication to her clients has allowed LAP to flourish despite staffing shortfalls during the months of October and November.  Lindsey’s professionalism and commitment with both LAP and the response line has resulted in greater engagement by partner agencies and more positive interactions for SAFE clientele.

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

It is that time of year where we all pause to reflect on the year past– how far we have come, and who helped us along the way. DC SAFE is so fortunate to be working alongside caring, supportive, and passionate organizations and individuals. We are not exaggerating when we say that we could not provide our critical services without their help, and at this time of year we want to take a special moment to recognize some of this year’s shining stars. You are all superheroes. Thank you for being part of the DC SAFE family.


Beveridge card

Building Partnerships card

Cafritz card

CVCP card

Katten card

Mary Kay card

OLA card

OVS card

SEIU card

Verizon card

Mary Kay Foundation Includes DC SAFE in 2014 Grantees

Mary Kay Foundation Includes DC SAFE in 2014 Grantees

DC SAFE is honored to have been selected from among hundreds of applicants as one of the 2014 grant recipients for The Mary Kay Foundation domestic violence shelter grant program.

While domestic violence has experienced a recent boost in awareness, shelters around the country are struggling to overcome funding gaps which directly affect their ability to provide resources for women and children fleeing abuse.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, The Mary Kay Foundation has awarded $3 million in grants to 150 domestic violence shelters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Each shelter will receive a $20,000 grant to maintain critical services and programs.

“It’s been a bigger challenge than ever for shelters to keep their doors open and grants from The Mary Kay Foundation are a vital part in helping shelters move forward in their missions,” said Anne Crews, board member for The Mary Kay Foundation and Vice President of Public Affairs for Mary Kay Inc. “We have witnessed significant progress in raising awareness that domestic violence is an unacceptable crime but there is much more work to be done. These grants are a signature program for us and we know the nearly 400,000 women and children served by the 150 shelters receiving our funding will have their lives changed for the better and join The Mary Kay Foundation in changing the dialogue surrounding abuse for generations to come.”

While more than half of the grant recipients use the unrestricted funds for basic operating expenses including utilities and meal preparation, others hire much needed personnel, complete repairs and facility renovations or add additional programs and resources based on the unique needs of their shelter and the clients they serve.

‘There is never going to be enough money to address the full needs of shelters and their programs,” said Crews who, as a long-time advocate against abuse, is the Mary Kay liaison to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence and serves as president of the board of directors for the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. “It’s up to all of us to volunteer or get involved with nonprofits focused on the issue.”

Through the Foundation’s annual shelter grant program, $37 million has been granted to domestic violence organizations since 2000. Each year, grants are awarded to at least one domestic violence shelter in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam with remaining grants distributed based on state population. Nearly 700 shelters applied for funding this year.

Click here for a full list of 2014 grant recipients or visit for additional information.

Advocate of the Month: September 2014

Advocate of the Month: September 2014

The SAFE Advocate of the Month for September is . . . all of you!

Our SAFE Advocates have worked hard through one incredibly busy summer, without for one second compromising the high quality of client services that we expect from all our staff. We’d like to take a moment to thank you for your amazing dedication, resourcefulness, and passion. You are an incredible team, and we are so fortunate to have you all with us. Thank you!



Valerie Collins Honored to Be SAFE Award Recipient

Valerie Collins Honored to Be SAFE Award Recipient

We were so pleased to receive this kind note from one of our awardees after our recent Keep DC SAFE event. We are so touched that these awards mean as much to the recipients as they do to us. We select our awardees carefully and it means so much to know that they appreciate this honor. Thank you again, Valerie Collins, for being a hero to domestic violence survivors!

“I am thankful that DC SAFE selected me as the 2014 recipient of the Laura Banks Reed Award for Community Service to Victims of Domestic Violence. It is truly an honor and especially from your organization. I value the CSOSA/SAFE Partnership and know it is making a difference to keep victims safe and hold batterers accountable. I look forward to our continued collaboration to provide safety and support to DV Victims.”

-Valerie Collins, Branch Chief, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

Reporting Back: DV in DC 2014

Reporting Back: DV in DC 2014

While domestic and intimate partner violence affects all communities and exists across all social and economic groups, each community faces unique challenges that impact the way in which survivors can access services, the way those services are delivered, and the outcomes that result. In 2013, in order to better understand the survivors it serves and the outcomes that these survivors in DC face, SAFE conducted a survey of its clients at all points of access to services during a two-week period in July. The survey asked clients who agreed to participate to provide additional information to what is normally collected during the intake process.

The DV in DC 2013 Report was published from the results of this survey, and provided a valuable insight into the characteristics of the DC survivors SAFE serves, and of specific challenges that survivors of domestic violence in DC face. However, the report was only able to examine this group of clients in the immediate aftermath of their access to services, and while it proved a valuable tool in understanding the people affected by violence and their needs and purpose in seeking resources, its insight into longer term demographic changes and outcomes from violence or from accessing the system of service providers and government relief was necessarily limited.

The intent of the 2013 report was to be the first in a series of reports that examined successive cohorts of SAFE clients seeking services, in order to better understand their needs and their outcomes. That report noted that a static representation of clients provided a woefully incomplete portrait of survivors as people, living dynamic lives, taking resilient action, and facing significant obstacles. In 2014, instead of repeating the survey study on a new cohort of clients, SAFE set out to examine the same group of survivors from 2013 through available measures, and critically including survivors’ voices in the process. This report is intended to carry forward the work of the 2013 report.

To learn more and read the 2014 report, click here.

To view a snapshot of our survey population, click here.

Who helps us Keep DC SAFE?

Who helps us Keep DC SAFE?

The 4th annual Keep DC SAFE is coming upon October 2, 2014. This annual awards reception will feature light fare, beer and wine, live music, and an awards ceremony at which we recognize the partners who have been crucial to our past year’s domestic violence crisis services. We’d like to take a chance to tell you all about this year’s special award recipients and invite you to join us in recognizing them. Please click here for information and tickets.

This year’s Laura Banks Reed Award for Community Service to Victims of Violence will be presented to Valerie Collins of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). CSOSA is a longtime partner of SAFE, and in the past year they have stepped up training for Court Supervision Officers around domestic violence issues and have worked closely with our Lethality Assessment Project staff to tighten alert processes and offender accountability strategies in high lethality cases. This means that victims at high risk of re-assault or homicide can get help from CSOSA in enforcing their abuser’s release status conditions, reducing the survivor’s risk of harm and giving her time to secure additional supportive resources to protect her from abuse. The award is named for Laura Banks Reed, the Director of Crime Victims’ Compensation Program and a valued community partner for DC SAFE.

The MPD Officer of the Year Award for Outstanding Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence will be presented to Officer Derek Dude, Officer Joseph Devlin, Officer Justin Roth. These outstanding officers are being recognized for their heroic actions in the field to save the life of a domestic violence survivor. The victim  was stabbed 15 times by her abuser and left in the street to die. Officers Dude, Devlin, & Roth responded to the scene, and when they saw the amount of blood surrounding the victim, they suspected an arterial bleed. The officers improvised a tourniquet from a passerby’s belt to stop the arterial bleeding, provided compression to the wound and elevated the leg to slow the blood flow, while they waited those critical few minutes for the ambulance to arrive and transport the victim to a hospital. Without their quick action, this survivor would not have lived to celebrate her birthday, just a few days following the attack.

The SAFE Volunteer Advocate of The Year Award will be presented to Robyn Swirling. Robyn has been volunteering with DC SAFE since September 2012, and is one of our most dedicated volunteers, working at minimum 12 hours per month on SAFE’s 24-hour Response Line. DC SAFE receives approximately 4,500 calls on our Response Line each year. In 24 months as a volunteer, Robyn has answered approximately 150 calls from survivors seeking help. Robyn coordinates shelter placements, lock changes, criminal justice advocacy, and walks clients through the protection order process. She also accompanies police on monthly ride-alongs to provide in-person advocacy at the scene of a domestic incident. Aside from performing her volunteer duties above and beyond expectation, Robyn uses her social media savvy to advocate, inform, and raise awareness about domestic violence in Washington, DC. She regularly tweets about her experience as a volunteer, encourages others to engage in the local domestic violence community, and solicits donations. She also assists with training new volunteers, where her enthusiasm and expertise is an inspiration to volunteers new and old. She is an exemplary volunteer, and it is people like Robyn that make our work possible.

In addition to Robyn, we’ll recognize two more volunteers who have gone above and beyond in the past year. Kim Martin will be presented with the OCAP Sleepover Award for signing up for more overnight Response Line shifts than any other volunteer – 72 out of 124 volunteer hours this year. This is our most grueling shift and the hardest to get coverage for – thanks, Kim, for being a hero for local survivors.

We’ll also honor Nadja Todt with the Ride Along Representative Award. Nadja has done more MPD Ride Alongs than any other volunteer. Since January, she has spent 152 hours on 19 Ride Alongs, providing in-person advocacy to victims immediately after abuse has occurred. This in-person advocacy is so valuable for survivors, and engaging with our MPD partners helps strengthen this terrific collaboration even further.

This year’s event also features a truly exciting musical guest, Deaf Dog & The Indictments. This band includes six DC Superior Court judges (Judge William Nooter, Judge Franklin Burgess Jr., Judge John Campbell, Judge Russell F. Canan, Judge William Jackson and Judge John McCabe) plus non-judge drummer and psychologist Marc Feldman. This band formed as part of a talent competition during a DC Superior Court staff retreat, and has gone on to perform numerous gigs around the DC Metro area, including charity events for Children’s National Medical Center, Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, and the National Juvenile Defender Association. They have even performed at the famous Bitter End in Greenwich Village.

We hope you will join us on October 2nd for this terrific event. Help us continue to make DC a safer place for domestic violence survivors.

Advocate of the Month: July 2014

Advocate of the Month: July 2014

Erin is SAFE’s Advocate of the Month for July 2014!

She’s been a phenomenal supervisor to our Court interns this summer, guiding them while they learn the ropes and answering questions whenever they encounter tricky cases. During this busy summer, she’s always on the ball with coordinating intakes and advocates at the Intake Center, often while also providing staff coverage on the Response Line. She made sure that client caseloads were redistributed as needed, and still made sure that administrative tasks like monthly stats were completed on time or ahead of time.

She’s an incredibly dedicated and driven staff member, and we’re so lucky to have her on our team. Thanks for all the hard work, Erin!

Are Domestic Violence Homicides on the Rise in DC?

Are Domestic Violence Homicides on the Rise in DC?

Recent high-profile coverage of local homicides of female victims have a number of local government and nonprofit agencies concerned about a potential spike in domestic violence homicides. Violent crime in general tends to increase during the summer months, and domestic violence is no exception. But is it accurate to say there is a trend of increasing domestic violence homicides happening in the District of Columbia right now?

First, it’s important to note that different local agencies track statistics on domestic violence in different ways. SAFE, and most nonprofit service providers, draw a distinction between “intimate partner violence” (violence between partners of any gender who are married, cohabiting, dating, or sexually active) and “intrafamily offenses,” (which includes the above but also violence between siblings, parents/children, infant deaths, and other non-romantic family relations). The Metropolitan Police Department tracks both types of crime under the general category “domestic violence.”

To date, in 2014, the District has seen 12 homicides that have been characterized as domestic violence (DV) homicides. Five of these have been confirmed as intimate partner violence (IPV) homicides; an additional 4-6 have a potential IPV link but are still pending investigation. In the entirety of 2013, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reported a total of 14 homicides attributed to domestic violence. Five of these homicides were confirmed as IPV homicides, with an additional 4 having potential but unconfirmed IPV links.

To date in 2014, there have been slightly more homicides linked to intimate partner violence than at the same time last year, although several cases from both years remain unclassified pending further investigation. However, with single digit incidences, and with a handful of cases remaining uncategorized, it is difficult to draw conclusions about any statistically significant trends.

In the last 20 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has demonstrated a significant decrease in the incidence of both DV and IPV, and there is no indication of a trend reversal in any recent reports or studies. The number of survivors seeking SAFE services at the District’s two Domestic Violence Intake Centers has not increased significantly between 2012 and 2013, at approximately 5,000 per year. SAFE’s 24/7 bilingual Response Line has seen an increase over the past two years; between 2011 and 2012, calls rose from just over 2,800 per year to 3,600, and the following year to 3,900. However, the number of Response Line calls received from MPD remained relatively constant throughout that period; the increase in SAFE’s numbers is attributable to new referral partners as we have added entry points at local emergency rooms and nonprofits, to expand victim access to services. Like sexual assault, domestic violence is heavily unreported by survivors due to fear, shame, or other barriers such as lack of knowledge of available services and victims’ rights; as such, it is important to  understand that an increase in survivors accessing services is not the same as an overall increase in the incidence of abuse, but may reflect an increase in the number of access points to services.

Looking at a trends over time, we see that the intimate partner violence homicide rate for the District of Columbia has actually decreased by 64% over the past five years, from 14 in 2009 to 5 in 2013. The Metropolitan Police Department has worked hard to implement new infrastructure, training, technology, and partnerships in this time, and has absolutely revolutionized the city’s emergency response services, improving safety for domestic violence victims and city residents alike. DC SAFE is proud to have MPD as a partner in our work.

MPD, DC SAFE, and the DC Office of Victim Services partnered together in 2006 to establish the Response Line, a 24/7 bilingual resource for domestic violence victims, which provides information, emergency shelter, and crisis resources to survivors at the moment they first report domestic violence to the police. SAFE advocates conduct a lethality assessment with every incoming client to determine her immediate risk of reassault or homicide, and develop a safety plan with each client to identify her primary safety needs and address them. These needs vary from client to client– shelter placement; an emergency lock change for her apartment; assistance in contacting MPD’s gun unit to retrieve a firearm from the abuser’s home; or transportation to the house of a friend or relative where the abuser can’t find her.

Each homicide that occurs is a tragedy, and our community feels each loss in a deeply personal way. But statistics tell us that the number of such tragedies per year has actually decreased, in no small part due to the collaboration of local government and nonprofit partners. We applaud the work of all of our partners to increase victim access to services, raise awareness, and hold offenders accountable.

If you want to support local survivors, please consider making a donation to support SAFE’s crisis services. Every day, we meet with victims, conduct lethality assessments, and develop safety plans to hold offenders accountable. Your gift supports our emergency shelter services, our 24/7 bilingual Response Line, our Court-based advocacy, and our expanding partnerships with local providers. If you have been following with concern the news of domestic violence homicides in our community, please take action now to ensure the continued availability of safety net services for victims in crisis.

Advocate of the Month: June 2014

Advocate of the Month: June 2014

Ana is our Advocate of the Month for June 2014! She had the highest number of client contacts and legal referrals in our Court program last month, during one of our busiest times of year. She has only been with SAFE a few months, but has become an invaluable asset in that short time– supporting fellow advocates and interns, covering gaps on the Response Line, and meeting with tons of clients. She has learned the ropes incredibly quickly, and provides intense and thorough advocacy to every client she meets with. Thank you, Ana, for being a top-notch advocate for our clients!