Safe Haven Statesboro recently opened its Safe Haven Outreach on 204 N. College St. Not to be confused with the confidential emergency shelter that has served Statesboro and surrounding areas since 1994, the Safe Haven Outreach location lends itself to new ways to serve the community.
"At this location, somebody can walk in from 8:30 to 5 and just talk to someone," said Kim Billings, public relations and legal services director for Safe Haven. "Here, they can have discussions that address things like, 'I want to know my options. I don't know if I'm ready to leave.'
"And now the community can drop off donations at this location from 10 a.m.–2 p.m., Monday–Friday."
The non-profit Safe Haven serves Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Jenkins, Screven and Washington counties.
Though providing emergency shelter for men, women and children in abusive situations is a major part of the work of Safe Haven, a host of other resources are available through the non-profit.
"Safe Haven works to provide resources for empowering the individuals we serve to lead independent, productive lives free from violence," Billings said.
Some of the resources offered by Safe Haven include a 24-hour hotline, the aforementioned emergency shelter, outreach services, crisis and care management, legal advocacy, temporary protective orders, children services, transportation services, support groups, community resource referrals, housing programs, employment training and assistance, and pet assistance.
Safe Haven offers prevention programs such as teen dating violence awareness, multicultural awareness, educational events and family violence task forces.
Additionally, Safe Haven offers training to the community through entities such as faith-based organizations, social and civic groups, educational settings, law enforcement, and businesses.
"We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," Billings said. "Because that's when domestic violence happens. It happens on a Friday night at the end of a work week or on a holiday; at 7 a.m. as you're getting the kids ready for school. It's not predictable."
Billings said the 21-bed shelter that typically stays at capacity is just one option for help.
"Sometimes the situation is so dangerous that you need to relocate immediately to the shelter," she said. "But on the flip side, with safety planning and services such as temporary protective orders and other help, someone may choose to stay in their own home.
"We always offer the shelter, but many that we serve stay in their own homes. Sometimes, our clients need help maneuvering the criminal justice system."
Billings said that people often are under the false assumption that a person has to have physical marks to be classified as "domestic violence."
"We're trying to get past that misconception," she said. "The abuse can be physical, emotional, financial, psychological, digital abuse such as online harassment or cyberstalking, isolation and pet abuse."
The Office of Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as "a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another partner."
Billings pointed out that the statistics for abuse are much higher than most people realize, with one in four women and one in seven men experiencing some form of domestic violence.
In 2017, Billings stated these startling statistics from Safe Haven: 845 crisis calls to the hotline, close to 100 children and 100 adults utilized the emergency shelter, 40 adults and 50 children received services through the Rapid Rehousing program, and 90 victims received legal advocacy assistance.
"We are the liaisons between the person we're helping and the many community agencies, such as the judicial and system, the school system, doctors' offices they have to deal with. ... We can help with all that."
Billings said, "Everybody deserves to be safe, to feel safe. Some people will say, 'Why didn't she leave?' But that focus is on the wrong person. The question should be, 'Why is he choosing to abuse his family?'"
Billings expressed appreciation for the community support that Safe Haven has received throughout the years, including the well-attended annual fundraiser "Dancing with the Statesboro Stars."
She encourages others in the community to get involved with Safe Haven through donations, volunteering or attending the monthly Bulloch County Family Violence Task Force meetings.
The Safe Haven hotline number is (912) 764-4605 and the Georgia Hotline is (800) 334-2836. Safe Haven's website is www.safehavenstatesboro.org.