Lynne Marie Wanamaker: Safe Passage’s services available to all genders

  • mactrunk

Published: 12/14/2017 7:49:01 PM
Safe Passage’s services available to all genders

The leadership of Safe Passage is deeply gratified that our local paper — and our Hampshire County community — joins with us in celebrating a “significant year.”

In its editorial, (“Significant year for Safe Passage,” Dec. 13), the Gazette heralded many of the proudest accomplishments of our 40 years. The unwavering generosity of our community has made possible all of these milestones, including expanded services for immigrant and Spanish-speaking survivors throughout Hampshire County; our Say Something prevention initiative; and the purchase of a new building for our community-based programs.

The editorial repeatedly referred to Safe Passage clients as “women.” But all of our services —including our confidential shelter, legal program, programs for children and youth, and community-based counseling and advocacy — are available to survivors of all genders.

The language the Gazette used to describe our work reflects the common misperception that organizations like Safe Passage serve only women. This misperception is harmful. It suggests to survivors who do not identify as women that there is no help for them. Moreover, it isolates and marginalizes these survivors by erasing their experiences. We want to make it very plain: If you have been hurt by an intimate partner, Safe Passage is here for you. You are not alone.

The impression that domestic violence service organizations only serve women is rooted in our movement’s history. Forty years ago, when Safe Passage was founded, domestic violence was perceived according to a strict binary: victims were assumed to be women; perpetrators, men.

Our understanding now is much more nuanced. It is informed both by a more accurate understanding of gender and by our decades of experience serving our community. Across the field of domestic and sexual violence services, we now know that people of all genders can be victimized and can perpetrate violence.

We also know that women and transgender people are at elevated risk of victimization. And at Safe Passage, we know that an increasing proportion of the people we serve reflect the gender diversity of our community. For example, the percentage of male survivors we served more than doubled between 2013 and 2015.

Our move to a new, larger space at 76 Carlon Drive will make it possible for us to improve all of our programs, in part by hiring more staff. Our plans include expanding our professional expertise and capacity to better serve transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary survivors.

This next step is but one example of how Safe Passage’s growth is directed by the needs of the people we are already serving and by our broader community. And it is just one example of how our generous community is making more possible.

Our donors are creating a community where survivors are believed and supported, where perpetrators are held accountable, and where safety and justice is available to us all.

Lynne Marie Wanamaker


The writer is deputy director of Safe Passage.

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Northampton, MA 01061


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