Carly Carver, Editor
The Ashland Beacon
Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky held their Annual Candlelight Vigil last Thursday in honor of those victims who have lost their lives as a result of domestic violence. The event is in conjunction with October’s observance of Domestic Violence Awareness month and is an annual event for Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky.
Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky is an emergency shelter and advocacy center that provides confidential, caring and supportive services to all domestic violence victims in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence, and Elliott counties. Each year, Safe Harbor has as
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many as 150 women and children.
Ann Perkins, the Executive Director of Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky, has been directing the center for 20 years and said that the Candlelight Vigil has been held annually for the past 25 to 30 years in the community.
“We had about 27 murders in Kentucky this year lost to domestic violence,” said Perkins. “That is a typical number for Kentucky.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 37.5 percent of Kentucky women and 31 percent of Kentucky men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape, and/or rape in their lifetimes.
“It is one in four women who are affected,” said Perkins. “So, if you have 10 women in your family, chances are you have one who are affected, if not two.”
Perkins said that unfortunately, there have been recent murders of Safe Harbor clients affected by domestic violence. “We had three deaths in the first three weeks of the coronavirus of Safe Harbor clients,” said Perkins. “These were the first three weeks we were in quarantine and they were all murdered.”
Perkins said that the candlelight vigil is a way to bring awareness and honor these victims, and all those that are lost to domestic violence. “For us to have three the first three weeks in lockdown was pretty shocking and pretty disturbing.”
Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky offers Safety Planning Services, that include safety tips during an explosive incident, ways to safely prepare to leave an abuser, safety on the job and in public, safety with a protective order, safety in your own home, your safety and emotional health, teen dating and violent relationships, and a reference checklist of what is needed for individuals preparing to leave an abuser.
“Most women feel totally alone in this situation, and very embarrassed,” said Perkins. “I have had doctors and lawyers and teachers and nurses, and it is every walk of life that is affected. It does not matter how educated you are. It is everyone.”
Client services also include de-escalation tips, legal advocates, and referrals. To learn more about legal advocates please visit: https://www.safeharborky.org/legal.
“There is a million reason why women don’t leave,” said Perkins. “It is an overwhelming situation for most people. And they keep it quiet because they are ashamed.”
Perkins said that Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky is heavily rooted throughout the community and relies on referrals through hospitals, resource centers, and various other sources to refer clients to them, but people in need can also contact them directly for assistance.
“We try to utilize everywhere out there that the average person would go, and we get a lot of referrals from there,” said Perkins. Once an individual reaches out to Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky they can then begin to receive assistance and take the first steps to safety.
“We take everybody and put them in a motel until they are tested for COVID-19,” said Perkins. “They call our crisis line, and we will make arrangements. Then we bring them food and supplies and anything that they need. Once their test comes back negative, then we bring them into shelter.”
Perkins said she understands the many reasons that people stay with their abusers, and Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky can assist with many of those. One of those reasons are financial need.
“Over the years we have realized how important financial literacy is,” said Perkins. “You don’t have to have any money while you are with us, everything is free. If you have past bills that need paid, we will help them do that. If they have court fees that need pai, we help them do that. If they need lawyers, we help them do that. We have a savings account program. We help people get into apartments and help with down payments and security departments and furniture. We help them look for jobs and get educations. We help them get their kids into counseling, we get them into counseling, we help sign them up for insurance. We help sign them up for food stamps.”
Another reason victims stay with abusers, are fear of losing their children or fear of custody battles, Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky can also assist victims with those matters.
“We have been pretty successful over the years with retaining children by obtaining good legal aid,” said Perkins. “We also help them work custody issues out. We do pretty much whatever they want us to do.”
Perkins said the number one reason women lose their children in the United States to foster care is Domestic Violence. “We help stabilize them and get their children back,” said Perkins.
Perkins said that Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky works with several local organizations to help provide mental health resources as well for both children and victims.
Another resource available for those seeking shelter, is a brand new and innovative feature. “We just got a $20,000 PetSmart Grant to convert one of our storage buildings into a kennel,” said Perkins. “We built five kennels. They have air conditioning; we have a commercial dog bath.”
Perkins said a leading reason a victim does not leave their abuser is fear the animal will be killed or abandoned. “We have three right now in the kennel,” said Perkins.
And now, the shelter also just opened an art studio. “We dedicated it to Susan Fried,” said Perkins. “She came to me about 14 years ago, and she has raised $1.4 million through Lobster Fest. It’s good food, it is a good party. She was the key to making that all successful. So we dedicated the art studio to her.”
Perkins said the art studio is an old laundry building that was part of the hospital that has undergone serious upgrades. “My husband is teaching pottery classes,” said Perkins. “We are also doing painting; we are doing crafts and jewelry making. We will paint pumpkins. It is just a wonderful, wonderful place to relax. It is therapeutic.” The studio also does classes for the children.
Through the use of resources, education, counseling and advocacy, Safe Harbor provides a safe place for you to consider the impact domestic violence is having upon you and your family. Safe Harbor's services are free to all victims of domestic violence. Safe Harbor provides services regardless of race, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or handicap. To learn more about Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky please visit https://www.safeharborky.org/.
“Don’t stay in a relationship that is about power and control, that isn’t love,” said Perkins. “There is a life after domestic violence. Every woman who has been there will tell you that. There are options. There are 15 shelters across the state of Kentucky. There are services out there. We want you to access them before it is too late.”
To contact Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline please call 800.926.2150.
To donate to Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky, please call 606.329.9304, or mail your donation to P.O. Box 2163 Ashland, KY 41105.
To volunteer at Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky please visit https://www.safeharborky.org/volunteer for additional information. The help you can provide can include clothing closet organization, distribution of educational materials, special events projects, holiday preparation, family activities, planting flowers, and clerical assistance.