Safe Haven launches Reach Out, Speak Out

~ Cassandra Richardson appointed Director ~

PHILIPSBURG–Non-profit organisation Safe Haven kicked off its latest campaign against domestic violence called “Reach Out, Speak Out” at Sheer Restaurant on Tuesday evening. The organisation also recently appointed Cassandra Richardson as the new director for its shelter.

Safe Haven offers free shelter, counselling and support services to women and their children who have suffered domestic violence. It started in 1998 and the shelter was opened in 1999. It was exactly in 1999 that the UN General Assembly designated November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Safe Haven President Angelique Martis-Romou introduced the board and director to stakeholders at the event. Romou said Richardson had been selected on Monday to run the organisation.

St. Maarten Development Fund representative Keith Franca was also present. Safe Haven said that the board deals with the Fund all the time and appreciates the assistance the Fund has given to Safe Haven since 2013.

In her address as director, Richardson said she was happy to be home after years of studying in North America in the humanities field.

“One of the signs of a healthy and happy community is a pillar of values that support all community members’ physical and mental safety. If it is a concern of St. Maarten, I know it’s a concern of mine and my colleagues to create a healthy community. As a community we need to be aware that intimate-partner violence is very present on our island and that it threatens our collective value of creating a healthy and happy community,” Richardson said.

While studies argue that women and men may experience gender-based violence at the same rate, intimate-partner abuse and violence have been documented to be more severe and sometimes lead to death of women by their male partners, according to the new director.

She continued, “A broad-based community strategy is needed to combat and eradicate domestic violence in our community, alongside a cultural mind shift, whereby building awareness and promoting education around the issue.

“At Safe Haven we look forward to building meaningful partnerships with the St. Maarten Medical Centre; police; Immigration; Child Welfare Services; Department of Labour; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations; victim services; schools; and others to create intimate-partner violence- and trauma-informed programmes and services within these institutions while simultaneously building stronger programmes internally at Save Haven.”

She concluded by stating that she is honoured to be home, regardless of GEBE outages, telecommunication breakdowns or water limitations.

One client gave a personal testimony about her experience with domestic violence.

The St. Maarten Development Fund and representatives of the Public Health Ministry gave words of encouragement to Safe Haven for the years of service the organisation has provided and wished it continued strength.    

Source: The Daily Herald