Safe Alliance serves people in crisis

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department receives 35,000 calls a year reporting domestic violence, which likely is much more pervasive in the community: The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates only one in 10 victims of domestic violence actually reports the incident.

And perpetrators cannot be characterized by race, ethnicity or level of income or education.

“Domestic violence cuts across all levels and areas of our community,” says Phil Kline, president and CEO of Safe Alliance, a Charlotte nonprofit that provides shelter, advocacy and counseling to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

In addition to the toll on women and families, and to the cost to taxpayers of the legally-mandated response by police to calls, domestic violence is expensive to business.

An estimated 20 percent of all adult women will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, and experts believe that intimate partner violence costs U.S. businesses up to $5 billion a year.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control in 2003 found that roughly eight million paid workdays a year were lost as a result of intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence in the workplace will be the focus of a summit on October 11 hosted by Safe Alliance and ENOUGH, a public awareness campaign about domestic violence.

The event will focus on helping employers measure the impact that domestic violence could be taking on their bottom line, and provide them with tools to address the issue and encourage victim employees and bystanders to come forward.

Domestic violence also will be the focus of Safe Alliance’s inaugural annual luncheon, to be held October 16 at the Hilton Charlotte Center City, featuring keynote speakers Ron Kimble, Charlotte deputy city manager, and his wife, Jan, whose daughter Jamie Kimble was murdered just over a year ago at age 31 by her former boyfriend.

Operating with an annual budget of $5.6 million and a staff of 62 people working full-time and 25 working part-time, Safe Alliance served 22,000 people in the fiscal year ended June 30.

In January, it opened the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter, which can house as many as 120 women and children at once, up from 29 at the shelter it replaced.

And because there is more room, women and children now typically stay for 90 days, up from 35 at the old shelter, giving the agency time to provide a range of services to help women become self-sufficient.

Safe Alliance, which has raised $9.4 million for the new shelter and still is seeking contributions to support it, also fields staff attorneys and victims assistance staff to help  women obtain protective orders and navigate legal processes at the Mecklenburg County courts.

Victim advocates at the agency’s offices in Charlotte, Cornelius, Monroe and Concord assist victims of sexual assault, and the agency also operates a rape crisis hotline for Mecklenburg, Union and Cabarrus counties, and provides mental health services.

And it operates a child advocacy center in Union County, and partners with similar centers in Charlotte and Concord, that work in partnership with law enforcement officials and medical professionals to assess and interview children who have been physically or sexually abused.

Safe Alliance also is working to build long-term relationships with donors by engaging them in its work and raising awareness about the needs it addresses.

“That’s what we have to develop here to accomplish our long-term goals,” Kline says.

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