Escaping an abusive spouse or partner is much more complicated than simply packing up and getting out, Brenda Reynolds, executive director of Lonoke County Safe Haven said of the situations the Shelter faces. "National statistics are that it takes up to eight tries before a woman finally gets out of it," she said.
Lonoke County Safe Haven is a privately funded outreach to encourage, support and offer options to victims of domestic abuse in Lonoke County. "We are totally dependent on the community to do this, especially because any grants keep getting cut back," Reynolds said.
The Shelter is rarely empty, Reynolds said. "We are seeing an average of 150 women a year." It takes much support to get through what is an often drawn out process.
"You have to remember that when a woman gets here, she usually has nothing. [Spouse] usually has the money, has the car keys, and she has nothing," Reynolds said. Breaking that cycle takes time and support.
"She has to start from nothing. She needs a job, but she can’t get a job because she has no car. It just goes on, and it is hard to break that," Reynolds said.
Safe Haven has to perform a cautious, too often dangerous, balancing act between secrecy and publicity. As a shelter for women fleeing domestic abuse Safe Haven is reclusive, protective of its clients. Yet, as a private non-government agency, it is funded by donations and other private sources – there must be enough public exposure to show the shelter is serving its purpose and has a need for support.
"We need more churches willing to help pay water bills, help us stock up on supplies… Anything you can use in your, we can use in ours," Reynolds said.
One regular source for help is the Safe Haven thrift shop.
Sarah Perry and Nancy Bush operate the store, volunteering their time because they have experienced domestic abuse either personally or seen a family member get through it.
"This is like a flea market, you never quite know what will be here," Bush remarked. "But it is all good things that people have donated. If it is not needed at the Shelter, we will sell it here. Either way, it all helps."
The Shelter is badly needed for women who are escaping abuse, Perry said. "She is coming out with nothing, she needs everything."
Reynolds points out that it is no exaggeration that there is danger in abusive relationships. Even the Safe Haven Web site carries a "Safety Alert," warning visitors looking for help that computer histories cannot be completely erased, to quickly leave the site, and then seek a computer that can be used safely or to use a telephone to call the hotline at 501-941-4357. "That’s 941-HELP," Reynolds said.
The Web site also provides an "ESCAPE" icon that will break cleanly from the site," Reynolds said.
The more support given Safe Haven, the more likely a woman will be helped without returning to the environment from which she is fleeing, Reynolds said. Apartments, cars, jobs, food – it is all needed before a woman can become independent.
There is one large fundraiser being planned for October, and a 5K run, Reynolds said. Each is very important to continuing the work of Safe Haven, but the donations made through the year are crucial.
The list of supplies is like any household, Reynolds said. Ladies and children’s pajamas, robes, house shoes, socks; cleaning supplies, trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper, laundry supplies, diapers, baby items such as wipes; canned goods, frozen meat in small packages.
"And volunteers," Reynolds exclaimed. "We have not had great success with volunteers. They come in, we call them a couple of time, and suddenly they are not available."
That is probably because reality is more difficult than expected, Reynolds said.
Giving rides to work would go a long way to helping, Reynolds said. Before a woman can buy a car she has to have at least a down payment, "And to do that she has to get to work.
Safe Haven has an eight-member board of directors: Linda Campbell, president; David Gates, secretary; Gail Call, treasurer; Laurel Meyer, Mary Ann Taft and Jane Morgan Balgavy.
"There is an opening on the board, if someone want to help that way," Reynolds said.
For more information on volunteering call Reynolds at 501-628-4233; or by email to lchs.org.
Safe Haven is a 501(C)(3) certified organization, donations are tax deductible, Reynolds said.
Donations to the Safe Have Thrift Store can be made 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Perry said.
"But if something doesn’t work, or can no longer be worn, just throw it out
The thrift store is in the Cabot Mini Mall, 116 South First St., suite E (the former state revenue office).