A Safe Place strives to end domestic violence

More than 300 guests recently came together at Loft 21 in Lincolnshire for the eighth annual Unmask the Violence Gala to benefit A Safe Place.

Attendees enjoyed a cocktail reception, chef stations, a live auction, whiskey tasting, cigar rolling and aerialist performances, led by master of ceremonies Mark “Silvy” Silverman of ESPN AM 1000, but the event also served to promote awareness of domestic violence and raised $187,000 for programs and services for victims and their children.

One highlight was the Faces of Survival presentation, in which six survivors, male and female, from various communities, income levels, professions, circumstances and age groups walked onstage to show the many faces of survival, then embraced as they held up a sign that read “From Victims to Victors” to a standing ovation of support.

We talked to Rena Lee, marketing, communication and events director for A Safe Place, to learn more about the organization:

Q. Can you give us a general overview of what A Safe Place does?

A. A Safe Place is the only nonprofit organization in Lake County whose sole mission is dedicated to combating domestic violence. Last year we served over 14,000 of our neighbors who came to us from communities all over the Chicagoland area: Lake County, McHenry, Cook, and Kenosha counties.

A staggering 117,500 women and 50,000 men in Lake County alone will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, and as many as 60,700 children in Lake County will witness abuse.

Our lifesaving programs and services focus on the safety and well-being of the entire family and community, including crisis support, safe houses, emergency and permanent housing, court and legal, advocacy and orders of protection, individual and group counseling, education for abusers to learn accountability for their actions, supervised visitation services, teen dating violence programs in the schools, and community outreach and training to prevent future abuse.

Q. How long has A Safe Place been active? How was the organization founded?

A. 2018 will be our 40th year serving the families of Lake County. A Safe Place opened in 1978 with a house on Genesee Street in Waukegan with our first client being from Lake Forest. Since then, we have expanded our reach and now have programs, services, and facilities in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, Gurnee, Mundelein, Waukegan, Lake Zurich and Zion. This year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of opening our second emergency shelter in Waukegan and the 10th anniversary of opening our 40-unit housing program in Zion.

Q. Who does A Safe Place help?

A. A Safe Place supports the entire community, men, women and children. Last year, we received 2,464 crisis line calls from victims, children witnesses, and concerned family members. We supervised 1,824 custody exchanges and 971 family visitations. We provided 7,501 nights of emergency shelter for victims and children. We assisted victims and family members with filing 3,306 orders of protection in the court system. And we educated over 5,800 community members and teenagers on domestic violence and teen dating violence.

Q. How does your charity help people?

A. It is our goal that by helping those most fragile in our community and helping community members learn more about the causes and appropriate responses to domestic violence, we can break the cycle of violence and create safe and healthy communities. When clients come to us, we provide a comprehensive range of lifesaving programs that empower victims to become self-sufficient, independent and live abuse-free lives. Case workers work with adults and children to make sure they are getting the help and support they need, including finding community resources, processing their emotions, looking for employment, and having a support network.

Because of the full breadth of services that A Safe Place offers, 94 percent of the survivors who left the emergency shelter last year did not go back to their abusers, as of their six-month check-in. Even though in the U.S., on average, a domestic violence victim will return to their abuser seven or eight times before either making it to lasting safety or dying.

In our Teen Dating Violence program in the schools throughout Lake County, middle and high school students learn what healthy relationships are and how to seek help or help friends who may be in trouble, thus breaking the cycle of violence.

Q. How can people who want to help out donate or volunteer?

A. We have opportunities available all year to donate and volunteer. We post a wish list on Wednesdays on our Facebook and Twitter pages and have special wish lists at holiday times, like Back to School, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day. Community members can call (847) 731-7165, ext. 100, to see what our needs are and schedule a drop off day and time in Zion. We also have volunteer opportunities available from assisting at our fundraising events to organizing our in-kind donations in our storage rooms.

More than 300 guests attended the eighth annual Unmask the Violence Gala at Loft 21 in Lincolnshire. Courtesy A Safe Place/Tanya Tucka
The 2017 Unmask the Violence Gala featured aerial performances by C5-Create With No Limits. Courtesy A Safe Place/Tanya Tucka
Gala chairwoman Patty Anderskow received the Humanitarian Award from Mike Strauss, vice president of the board of directors. Courtesy A Safe Place/Tanya Tucka
A Safe Place Board member Michael Rosengarden received the Betty Toser "Angel" Award from Heather Toser for his generosity, commitment and leadership during the past 12 years. Courtesy A Safe Place/Tanya Tucka
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