S.A.F.E. Haven

Published 6:32 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

AHOSKIE—Violence is a learned behavior, but it can be unlearned.

That message was sent here Saturday as dozens of women (and a few men) joined Roanoke-Chowan S.A.F.E. in kicking off Domestic Violence Awareness Month at Catherine’s Restaurant with a fundraiser for the non-profit organization.

S.A.F.E, Services for Abused Families for Emergencies, has been assisting victims of domestic violence in Bertie, Hertford, Northampton and Gates counties for 24 years. This year alone S.A.F.E. has helped 823 victims in the four-county area.

“We have a 24-hour crisis hot line, an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence, transportation and victim advocacy,” said Executive Director Lorraine Lassiter listing a handful of the services offered by S.A.F.E.

The fundraiser luncheon featured an auction and fashion show. Clothing and jewelry items (from Simply Suits) that were donned by the “Divas of the Day” were available for purchase following the show.

According to Lassiter, all of the proceeds earned on Saturday will go toward the operational expenses of the organization.

Victim Advocate (Hertford County) Thelma Askew hosted the event, which also featured guest speakers, including Connie Smithson, a local author who wrote about her family’s experience with domestic violence in her book “Quiet Moments.”

In May 1999, Smithson’s aunt, Patty-Jo Riddick Pulley, was 37 years old when she went missing. Smithson took it upon herself to investigate her aunt’s disappearance. Patty-Jo’s remains were found three and a half years later under a bridge in Caswell County.

The perpetrator of the crime was Patty-Jo’s husband, Rick Pulley, who had become a beloved family member over the years the couple was married.

“As bad as it gets would have been spending those five years from the time Patty Jo went missing until the day her husband was convicted of her murder, without God,” said Smithson. “It was during that time I began writing ‘Quiet Moments’ as a form of healing. However, the book has become more than a healing process for me; it has also been a growing process, spiritually.”

Smithson also spoke about the importance of S.A.F.E. and other shelters for victims of domestic violence.

“Patty Jo chose to stay in an abusive relationship with her husband for reasons we will never know. Staying cost her her life,” she said. “Since the publication of my book in March, I have received numerous emails from women all over the United States who left their abusive spouse after reading it and went to a shelter. If it had not been for a shelter such as S.A.F.E those women would have had no where else to turn for protection.”

Smithson continued by saying it is imperative that we financially support shelters such as S.A.F.E. so they can continue to operate and serve women who have fallen victim to domestic violence.

She also asked the audience to remember the abusers who were more than likely abused at some point in their lives and to support batterer rehabilitation programs.

Guest speakers Wendy White and Kristi Moffett with NC Self Defense were on hand to sell non-lethal self defense products, including pepper spray and tasers.

Moffett also spoke about her sister, who is a survivor of domestic violence.

Moffett said many victims may be fearful of retaliation if they have a personal defense item, like a stun gun or pepper spray. However, when Moffett asked her sister if she would have used a self defense item, she said yes.

“If she could have had just 30 minutes,” Moffett said. “Violence is every where; you have to be aware of the time we’re living in.”

Poet and owner of Simply Suits, Trinnette Vaughan-Sharpe, offered a few words.

“Since we all here have been through something, we all should wear a badge,” she said before reciting a poem about being a woman.