United Way Focus: Safe Haven

For more than 25 years, a local shelter has helped women go from feeling battered to beautiful.
Having entered Save Haven with broken ribs, busted lips and low spirits, thousands of them have degrees, jobs, confidence and independence after leaving.
Dorothy Givens, who has witnessed these changes for over two decades, works as Safe Haven’s domestic violence/sexual assault coordinator.
If the house, which can hold 30 women, is full, Givens refers women to another shelter.
“We don’t just put them out,” she said.
On average, about 20 women stay at the house daily. From October 2009 to this month, the shelter has serviced over 415 clients.
“We’ve had some more come in this month,” Givens said.
Some of the men left jobless due to the recession often carry out their stresses onto their wives or mates, starting a cycle of abuse continued by their children — daughters who seek abusive boyfriends and sons who beat their girlfriends.
Sibling abuse is also a result, Givens said.
“Children mimic what they see,” she added. And sometimes, so will their mothers.
The abuse often starts out as verbal and progresses to mental, where men isolate their women from family and friends and program them to believe that no one else cares about them.
This situation is the perfect set up for beatings, after which women finally call the shelter. Sometimes they wait until it’s too late.
“Three weeks ago, there was a murder,” Givens said.
Mississippi ranks No. 2 in domestic violence homicides.
But organizations like Safe Haven do all they can to reverse that trend, depending entirely on public and private donations and funds from the United Way of North Central Mississippi, which is in the middle of its annual fundraising campaign.
Safe Haven staff and volunteers
teach the bruised and battered women to live with self-confidence and fend for themselves.
Students of a local cosmetology school give the women manicures, pedicures and haircuts — a practice many of the women have long neglected.
During their stay, they are made to cook, and if they don’t know how, they must learn.
For protection purposes, no one is allowed to speak of the shelter’s location outside of the house, which is grounds for expulsion from the facility.
When their 30-day stay at the house expires, they can look for jobs and file for protection programs at their new homes.
“They get their own place, their own key and do not have to answer to an abusive spouse or mate,” Givens said.
If abusers call the shelter, they are referred to the local community counseling center for anger management therapy.
Givens, who will finish her paralegal degree in December, does research on laws regarding protection of the clients, helping them swim through the legal system to get protection for as long as they wish.
“I do everything,” she said.
After over two decades of serving women in desperate situations, she never grows weary.
“I love what I do,” she said. “You have to have the heart for it.”
To donate to Safe Haven through United Way, send a check to P.O. Box 1603, Starkville, MS, 39759.
Safe Haven is also seeking volunteers to keep children for an hour on Thursdays while their mothers attend group therapy sessions.
For more information on how to volunteer at Safe Haven, call 327-6118.