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S.A.F.E. continues to offer help

AHOSKIE – The work to provide help for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault has not stopped just because it’s more difficult for people to meet face-to-face now.

“Nothing’s really changed. We do not turn anybody away that’s going through domestic violence of sexual assault. We’re just taking more safety precautions now,” said Tammie McCarter, who serves as Executive Director for Roanoke-Chowan S.A.F.E. (Services for Abused Families with Emergencies)

Headquartered in Ahoskie, S.A.F.E. is a nonprofit that provides a number of services to victims in Hertford, Northampton, Bertie, and Gates counties.

There were concerns when Governor Cooper’s “stay at home” order was first implemented that the number of domestic violence cases could rise since victims would be at home more often with their abusers, but McCarter reported that, thankfully, they hadn’t seen an increase so far in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

Though the number of victims hasn’t skyrocketed, the amount isn’t zero either. So the organization is still working to provide all the same services as before, even if they may be in a different way. McCarter said, for example, they’ve transitioned to interacting with clients right now through phone calls and video chats while most staffers continue to work remotely.

The only service that’s on hold at the moment is court advocacy. Once courts resume meeting in person again, McCarter said advocates will return as well.

“Not everybody that comes to us needs the same thing. It varies from victim to victim,” she explained.

Some people need counseling. Others need clothing and a place to stay. S.A.F.E. provides for those needs with supportive services—though currently being done by telephone—and a thrift store and emergency shelter. With the current COVID-19 concerns, however, McCarter said they’re taking extra precautions and sanitizing the shelter daily in order to keep everyone safe.

McCarter also noted there are still a number of ways victims can reach out to them for help even if they don’t do it face-to-face. She said they can send messages through their website (roanokechowansafe.com) or Facebook page. They can ask to be connected to S.A.F.E. if they’re at a doctor’s office for an appointment or at the police department. They can also call the office number (252-332-1933) which serves as a crisis line 24 hours a day all year long.

But she also urged people to always call 911 in an emergency domestic violence situation.

“I know they feel self-isolated, especially if the abuser is around them. But there are still ways they can get in touch with us,” she said. “I’m sure there are a lot of victims out there that feel like there’s no hope for them, that there’s no one out there to help them.”

“We can help them,” McCarter continued. “They’ve just got to reach out to us.”

Community members can help out as well. Though the organization cannot add new volunteers right now, they are always in need of donations for the emergency shelter. They take items such as diapers, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and more.

And if someone sees abuse going on, McCarter asked that people not ignore it. Safely call for help or get more information to pass on to those that can help.

“If another individual sees any type of abuse going on, don’t walk away,” she said.

Despite how much life has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal is still to stop abuse and transform victims into survivors.

“We serve men, women, and children at no cost. We’re always willing to listen. We’re always here for emotional support. And we will assist them through helping them become self-sufficient,” McCarter concluded.