Focusing on victim safety from the moment an incident occurs, SAFE provides the necessary support for victims to become survivors.
SAFE’s mission is to ensure the safety and self-determination of domestic violence survivors in Washington, DC through emergency services, court advocacy and system reform. SAFE helps more than 5,000 victims of domestic violence every year with safety planning, legal information and court accompaniment, safe housing, and referrals to other legal and social services. As the first responder for domestic violence services in DC, SAFE Advocates begin working with clients within just moments or hours of a violent incident to create immediate safety for the family and begin the process of long-term change. SAFE provides valuable information and services to survivors in order to help them break the cycle of violence, reduce the likelihood of future abuse, and decrease the risk of homicide.
SAFE began as a program of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1997, with one advocate providing services to all survivors of domestic violence who sought assistance through the DC Superior Court. SAFE has grown to include five full-time advocates, two program staff, and two co-executive directors. In 2006 SAFE separated from DCCADV and incorporated as an independent organization.
SAFE has two programs, the Court Advocacy Program and the On Call Advocacy Program. Together these programs provide immediate crisis intervention for victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Court Advocacy Program provides court-based advocacy services to every domestic violence survivor- between 20 to 30 clients every weekday- seeking services at DC's two Domestic Violence Intake Centers (DVICs) located at DC Superior Court and Greater Southeast Community Hospital. SAFE's Court Advocates provide survivors with: legal information and help writing petitions for Temporary and Civil Protection Orders; information about family law, criminal law and child support; information on how to file a police report; safety planning; public benefits referrals; emergency financial and material assistance; court accompaniment and case follow-up; emotional support; and assistance with any other court or social services needs.
SAFE created the On-Call Advocacy Program (OCAP) to provide after-hours support for domestic violence survivors who contact the Metropolitan Police Department for assistance outside of DC Superior Court's normal hours of business. This program now operates 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to respond immediately to victims' needs within one hour of a violent incident. OCAP advocates speak to victims on the phone or meet with them at a hospital or police station, to provide them with: safety planning; legal information; paid hotel stays when no shelter is available; transportation; emergency material assistance; access to the Emergency Temporary Protection Order (ETPO) process; and a direct link to a CAP advocate who will work with them throughout the remainder of the court process. The advocates can also answer questions from MPD officers and detectives about victim resources, Protection Orders, and any other matter relating to resources and rights for domestic violence survivors. The On Call Advocacy Program has partnerships with the Metropolitan Police Department and Child and Family Services Agency whereby officers and social workers are required to offer SAFE services to every victim of domestic violence they encounter and even make the call to SAFE on the victim's behalf.
SAFE also conducts Court Watch - a volunteer-staffed project in which trained observers record standardized data about Civil and Temporary Protection Order hearings. The Reports provide information to SAFE about how to best help our clients, as well as objective feedback to the Court regarding its treatment of domestic violence survivors - both positive and negative - thereby ensuring fair and equitable treatment of all survivors who appear before the Court.
In 2009, SAFE began providing specialized services for victims of domestic violence at highest risk of homicide at the hands of their abusers. Through a partnership with the Government of the District of Columbia, we are able to offer expedited social services through agency partnerships to ensure the safety of this vulnterable population. In 2011, SAFE began offering confidential shelter for up to thirty days in an apartment setting for these families to further ensure their immediate safety and provide more focused assistance.