BRATTLEBORO — Windham County Safe Place is a nationally accredited child advocacy center that provides services to both children and adults who have endured physical and/or sexual violence.
“We just want to make sure that if any child has been sexually or physically abused they only have to be interviewed once,” said Michelle Meima, case coordinator and victim advocate. “The important thing is they come to a safe environment and they only have to talk about what’s happened to them once.”
Safe Place’s executive director is Samantha Prince, who was recently recognized by the Brattleboro Reformer as a Remarkable Woman in the non-profit category.
After receiving the recognition on Nov. 10, Prince told the crowd at Vermont Innovation Box that she is using the opportunity to raise awareness of what her organization does in providing resources to victims of physical and sexual violence, including allowing people the space to share their experiences in their own words.
“We’re working really hard to try to make a difference for people who have been through some of the worst trauma in their lives,” said Prince, who is currently on maternity leave.
“We’re here to support everybody,” said Meima, who is filling in while Prince is out. “It’s not just children; we also have adults. We want them to know they can come in here and they can tell their story.”
Prince, who conducts forensic interviews, often takes the place of victims in a courtroom so they don’t have to tell their stories in front of their abuser and be subject to a cross examination by defense counsel.
Windham County Safe Place’s three staff members are paid though funding from the Department of Children and Families. The Safe Place’s staff is supplemented by a multi-disciplinary team with officers from the Brattleboro, Wilmington, Dover and Bellows Falls police departments, troopers with the Vermont State Police and a deputy from the Windham County Sheriff’s Office. Team members also come from DCF, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office.
And while it receives funding for basic operations, Safe Place doesn’t always have enough money for things like coloring books for kids, snacks and drinks, toys, gas cards and activities like its girls meeting group.
Throughout the month of November, people can donate to Safe Place through No Shave November, in which men grow out their beards or mustaches as a way to raise awareness about a particular issue, such as cancer or men’s health.
For more information, or to donate, visit Safe Place’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SafePlaceCAC.
“If you’re a female, or you’re an identifying female, you can wear fun hair extensions or colorful nails or something like that,” said Meima, who said this year’s fundraiser has a twist.
Safe Place is in a friendly competition with the Family Place, the child advocacy center in Windsor County, to see who can raise the most money.
So far, Safe Place has raised nearly $5,000 from 120 donors, said Meima.
“The girls meeting group is every couple of weeks,” she said. “They’re survivors of sexual and physical abuse. It’s a safe place where the can sit and talk, not just about what’s happened to them, but so they can be amongst each other and support each other. We’d love to expand programs like this, but we can’t because we don’t have the funds to do so.”
Every donation goes toward programs like the meeting group or for supplies that aren’t covered by state funding.
Meima said people can donate funds anytime of the year, but No Shave November is a fun activity that can bring attention to Safe Place’s mission.