Safe Harbors, Wallowa County’s refuge for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault, has a message for Wallowa County: “We’re all-inclusive, and serve people of every demographic. Your gender, your race, your age, your religion or sexual orientation doesn’t matter. We’re here to be a safe place for you,” said new Safe Harbors director, Amy Stubblefield.
The organization has seen a number of recent changes, including Stefani Duncan taking over as sexual assault victim advocate and Jessi Howard in the role of mobile advocate. Howard is working on establishing outreach programs in Imnaha, Troy, Flora and Wallowa. “We want to look into getting office hours in Wallowa or Imnaha. We need to let the communities know that we’ll be accessible to them,” Howard said.
Howard also said that local businesses are getting involved with spreading the Safe Harbors message. During October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sugar Time Bakery in Enterprise will daily sell treats featuring the domestic violence ribbon with a portion of the proceeds going to Safe Harbors. The organization also just received a new conference table thanks to a Wildhorse Foundation grant and Bronson Log Homes manufacturing the large pine table at a reduced cost.
Stubblefield, the new director, grew up in the Willamette Valley, subsequently spending time in Las Vegas and Hawaii before settling in Wallowa County in 2006 to finish her schooling at Eastern Oregon University where she eventually received a bachelor’s degree in social work. She started working for Safe Harbors in 2011 as a crisis advocate, becoming interim director in August and taking over the position full-time on Sept. 1.
Statistics show an increase in people seeking Safe Harbors services, Stubblefield noted. In 2013, the organization served 149 victims while 2014 saw 210 clients served. Through July of this year, 114 clients have sought help, 68 of them with no previous contact with the organization. Safe Harbors also provides shelter for victims if needed.
Stubblefield attributes the statistical rise to Safe Harbors’ efforts in community education, particularly as to what constitutes domestic violence and sexual assault. “I think we’re seeing an increase in victims reaching out rather than an increase in the behavior itself. I think people are more open to reaching out rather than keeping it behind closed doors,” Stubblefield said.
Socio-economic standing has little to do with domestic violence or sexual assault rates, according to Stubblefield. “These are the types of crimes that transcend all boundaries. There’s no way to be immune to it or to think because you live in a certain area that it isn’t happening to your neighbor,” Stubblefield said.
Safe Harbors uses any venue they can to make their presence known in the county, including booths at public events, multiple Facebook pages, their web page and even schools — with the exception of Enterprise. “We haven’t been able to work an agreement that the powers-that-be think is appropriate,” Stubblefield said. Safe Harbors already has an in-school relationship with Joseph Charter School and is working on developing in-school relationships with Wallowa schools and the Alternative Education school.
Ultimately, Stubblefield says that education, the earlier the better, is the key to stopping or at least limiting domestic and sexual violence. “Knowledge is power, and a lot of victims come in because they’re not sure if their situation is abusive, and we can provide them with information to help them make that decision,” she said.
Safe Harbors is in need of monetary donations, which are tax-deductible. Household goods and volunteers for the mobile hotline are also needed. Stubblefield also said she hopes to build or purchase better transitional housing for clients who are starting life anew. “What we have now is focused more on immediate need and not the long-term transition people need to get back on their feet,” Stubblefield said.
As for the future, Stubblefield said she hopes to continue her predecessor’s success in funding and community partnerships, as well as providing services and educating the community as to what abuse looks like.
“We start from a place of believing and supporting. We believe that victims know their circumstances and situations better than anybody, We try to support them in any decision they’re making,” Stubblefield said.