LIFT: An Alliance to End Abuse – Message by Julia Spann, SafePlace Executive Director

Understanding the trauma of sexual assault and domestic violence, working to end it, and helping to lift up women, children and men who have been abused is why SafePlace exists. Many of the people who call us have one type of victimization – domestic violence only, or perhaps they have been raped by an acquaintance. But often, people seeking our help have experienced multiple types of abuse. Daily we meet women who come to us fleeing an abusive partner, soon we learn that one of her children has also been hurt. And, as we get to know her, we find out that she was abused when she was a child, as was her brother, as was her mother. Her family genogram shows a disturbing pattern of violence that permeates generations. It is clear to us that people need help with their whole life experience, not an incident.

SafePlace believes that we must create programs and systems that change the patterns. In the past we have done so brilliantly, as we have been innovative in responding to teen dating abuse or violence against people with disabilities. But we have not done enough about child abuse. This is important because we know that if a child is abused, they are more likely to grow up and be in an abusive relationship. For those of us who have worked here for many years, we are beginning to see women come to our shelter who lived here when they were little – and we know that they have been victims of abuse as well as witnesses of the abuse in their families.

We are committed to creating healthy futures for the families we serve. We are proud to announce that we have joined with the Austin Children’s Shelter (ACS) in an alliance to address child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. LIFT: An Alliance to End Abuse has been created to work together to eliminate child, sexual and domestic violence through the power of our combined voices and actions.

The LIFT Alliance is already being talked about as a model for addressing the interconnected issues of child, sexual and domestic violence. It is an elegant structure where both SafePlace and the Austin Children’s Shelter retain their unique corporate, programmatic and brand identities while also realizing the benefits of coordinated planning and advocacy. Efficiency is also being gained through combined back office functions, including Finance, IT, Human Resources, Information Systems and Administration. The LIFT Alliance is also being structured in such a way as to allow other victim/survivor oriented organizations to join.

An important question from our community supporters – “will my donation continue to support the work of SafePlace?” Yes, absolutely! This structure allows all member organizations to retain their identities and assets. All donor intent will continue to be honored and all SafePlace assets will be retained with SafePlace. A question from our volunteers might be, “can I volunteer for the one issue I care most dramatically about?” Yes, absolutely! And, “will our name change?” No, we will still be SafePlace. Our clients will come to the SafePlace campus. The SafePlace mission will not change.

LIFT: An Alliance to End Abuse will be fully implemented by January 1, 2013 but we haven’t been sitting still in the interim. Both ACS and SafePlace are already recognizing enormous benefits. Already we have:

  • Added a charter middle and high school at the SafePlace campus making it possible for youth from both organizations to attend school K-12;
  • Opened the ACS residential shelter and parenting coaching and support program for young moms to include young families from SafePlace that are deemed to be at high risk for abusing and losing their children;
  • Created redundancy in several key positions and departments; and
  • Generated immediate savings of over $100,000 for FY13.

Both ACS and SafePlace will continue to be governed by their respective Boards of Directors while a new Board and corporate entity has been established for the LIFT Alliance. The convening Board of LIFT is composed of individuals from both the ACS and SafePlace Boards, as well as the general community.

The LIFT Alliance is an exhilarating advance for our fields of work. Together with our partner, we will coordinate powerful messages about safety and peace and we will double the number of us giving that same message. I, for one, want to tell everybody that child abuse is bad, domestic violence is bad, sexual abuse is bad and we can do something about it! Let’s work together to stop violence in our homes and in our community.

This is a wonderful opportunity to create yet another path to end abuse that shatters lives. Thanks for supporting SafePlace in this important new endeavor!

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