Lucinda experienced severe sexual assault in her early teen years, followed by a long-term abusive relationship, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks and difficulty living a normal life. When Lucinda finally decided to leave her long-term abusive relationship, she came to SAFE’s shelter in hopes of finding safety. Counselors at SAFE helped Lucinda develop coping strategies and regain her confidence. Lawyers at SAFE worked with her to obtain a protective order. Now Lucinda lives in her own apartment, has a steady income and ongoing support services.

Kristie Gonzales

SAFE Board Member Kristie Gonzales is the President and General Manager of KVUE, the abc affiliate in Austin, Texas. She leads a staff of more than 120 employees who produce 33 hours of award-winning live news each week.

Previously, Kristie held various television management roles across the country, specializing in news branding, multi-cultural marketing and harnessing the power of digital and social media. She has served with anti-abuse organizations for more than 15 years after experiencing domestic violence. She now shares her personal story and the motto given to her by her mentor, “As you climb, lift,” with others facing adversity.


The physical abuse that Leo, his mother and his siblings suffered daily at the hands of his father forced Leo to run away from home on several occasions, only returning to check on his siblings. Leo also acted out and was eventually placed in juvenile detention. When he arrived at SAFE’s Children’s Shelter, Leo found a sense of stability and received the support and help he needed to register for community college classes and secure a part-time job. He now has his own car, is getting better grades and feels much more prepared to enter adulthood confidently.


Only a week after enduring severe violence by her partner, Michelle was able to access SAFE’s counseling services to address the trauma that she faced. Michelle’s counselor worked with her using a type of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to restore her sense of safety and help her prepare to testify against her abuser in court. The counselor also accompanied Michelle to court and had the honor of witnessing Michelle courageously speak truth to power from the witness stand. Since she started seeing counselors at SAFE, Michelle has released her feelings of guilt and shame and now lives free of fear of her abuser.

Melinda Cantu, Vice President of Housing, Healing, and Support Services

Melinda has been a part of SAFE for over 30 years in both direct service and leadership positions. Melinda has been the driving force behind many of SAFE’s programs that directly support youth and adults. She has presented nationally and internationally on operating barrier-free shelters and services. Statewide, she has been active with the Texas Council on Family Violence, and locally as part of the Ending Community Homelessness Organization. Melinda and the staff she works with are dedicated to supporting survivors as they find their strength and start their journey to healing.

Virginia Manders, Data entry volunteer for the Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy program

Virginia has dedicated more than 250 hours volunteering with SAFE’s Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy program, which accompanies sexual assault survivors who undergo forensic exams in Travis County. Her work involves entering data for medical accompaniment reports. Virginia understands the complex issues that sexual assault victims face and her sensitivity to accurate documentation impacts the quality of follow-up services. Virginia also researches grants and writes summaries of research studies that SAFE uses when applying for grants. For her tireless dedication, Virginia was named the 2018 Frankie Fowler Volunteer of the Year.