Safe Harbor Names New Executive Director
Safe Harbor, an organization in Henrico that works to help victims of domestic violence, has named its new executive director.
Kathleen Demro takes over as Safe Harbor celebrates its tenth anniversary.
Demro: It feels like coming home.
Demro says she feels privileged to have been involved in the community of advocates making a difference in the lives of women for more than 23 years.
Demro: I worked for six years with a sister agency in Williamsburg, focusing primarily on issues of sexual violence, but also working in their domestic violence program there. Then I worked in a court-based advocacy program in Campbell County as Director of their Victim Witness program, and then for the last 14 years, I've worked at the Department of Criminal Justice Services here in Richmond, administering funding that goes to victim assistance programs statewide.
She says she’s never met a group of people more committed to ending domestic violence than the ones that she's met at Safe Harbor.
Demro: We provide very comprehensive services from emergency sheltering to our community counseling program for adults and their children; we have court-based services for people who have criminal matters in court and are seeking protective orders; we have a very vibrant volunteer program, we do community education, we provide services to people in our community who speak primarily Spanish as their first language.
How important is the work being done at Safe Harbor?
Demro: It's critical, and we're not the only one in town and still our numbers are staggering. Last fiscal year, we saw face-to-face almost a thousand people; our shelter beds are always full.
The bad economy, she noted, has brought out the worst in some people.
Demro: I think people are stretched more now, and their resources are more limited, so, whereas a year or two ago, you might have more options because you had a decent salary or you had family or friends who could take you in, folks don't have that same level of resources, so there's a little bit more desperation, there are fewer options and choices for people.
In spite of the increased demand, Demro added:
Demro: If they're in imminent danger, if they feel like their life is under threat at that moment, then we're certainly going to try to find them a place to go, 'cause that's our first priority, is to get people to some safety.
Many people who feel threatened, she said, come to Safe Harbor for counseling.
Demro: Where they meet with our counselors on a weekly basis because they know that something is terribly wrong at home, they know that they're hurt, and that they're in a painful relationship, but they may not even have the language to describe what that is and so it takes some time working with our counselors to be able to identify that what is going on in their home, it's called "intimate partner violence" and then, once they understand that, what are their options in terms of, are there ways to increase their safety if they choose to stay in the home or are there options for them to leave the situation altogether.
Not all of Safe Harbor’s clients are women.
Demro: We see a awful lot of children. Children are affected by violence even when they're not in the room when physical violence is occurring, they know what's happening, they hear the fighting, so a lot of our clients are minors, but we also provide services to men who have been hurt by their intimate partners, so certainly if a man calls us for services, we are going to provide some help.
Learn more online at safeharborshelter.com. The 24-hour Crisis Hotline is 287-7877.
John Ogle, WCVE News