Benjamin Engel joins Safe At Home as CEO

The Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation today announced that Benjamin Engel will join as its new Chief Executive Officer effective today. Engel brings a wealth of expertise in NPO development and development operations to the Foundation. He most recently served as the Chief Development Officer for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Safe At Home, which helps children impacted by violence and abuse in their homes, schools, and communities, has reached more than 100,000 students since its founding. Safe At Home helps young people cope with their experiences and get on the path to healing, hope, and empowerment. Safe At Home’s signature program is a school-based safe room called Margaret’s Place, named in honor of Joe Torre’s mother. Each Margaret’s Place is staffed by a full-time, master’s-level therapist who provides both individual and group counseling sessions. Due to COVID-19, Safe At Home has shifted to virtual programming and counseling through its partnerships with the schools. Additionally, each Margaret’s Place program has a peer leadership program, which supports youth as they foster social, organizational, and leadership skills, and empowers young people to be change agents in their communities. Safe At Home also offers an intern program for alumni of the Margaret’s Place program who have demonstrated responsibility and leadership potential. Alumni staff assist in managing the peer leadership program, create and lead workshops, ensure that youth voice is present in its work, provides professional development opportunities for alumni, and establishes a relatable point of access for students.

“Unfortunately for many, staying at home doesn’t always mean being safe at home. Domestic violence exists behind closed doors, and during the pandemic, our mission of ending the cycle of domestic violence has become more important than ever,” said Joe Torre, baseball Hall of Famer and Chairman of Safe At Home. “We are grateful for Ben’s expertise to help us maintain and grow our programming so more children feel safe at home.”

“We are so pleased to welcome Ben to Safe At Home. He has a proven track record as a strategic development leader in the field,” said Ali Torre, President, Safe At Home. “Now more than ever, children need to understand that they’re not alone and it’s not their fault. Ben’s experience in non-profit development and relationship cultivation will help us reach more children at a critical time.”

Prior to serving as the Chief Development Officer for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Engel was Vice President, Development and Development Operations for the organization. He oversaw all foundation stewardship efforts and revenue activities that helped drive the Prostate Cancer Foundation’ mission to fund cutting-edge cancer research at academic medical institutions around the globe. Previously, Engel also served at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and prior to that with Autism Speaks.

“I’m excited and proud to join the Safe At Home team to help end the cycle of domestic violence,” said Engel. “I’m ready to put my experience to work so we can broaden the reach of the Foundation and help save lives.”

Celebrating Holidays During Social Distancing

As we are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, we are not able to gather with family and community to mark the passing of time, holidays, celebrations as we typically do.

The ways we connect this year may look different than they have in the past – and that’s okay. It is still possible to connect and celebrate/commemorate holidays.

Here are some ideas to help you find ways to celebrate upcoming holidays while stay at home guidelines remain in effect. These ideas may not work for everyone, but they might get your creativity flowing to find a safe, healthy solution that works for you:

  • Adapt family traditions to be able to continue them virtually. For example, if someone you celebrate with is known for picking the music for the day, ask them to make a shared music playlist so everyone can jam out while you’re apart. If your gatherings typically include a potluck-style meal, exchange recipes so you can eat some of the same foods that you would typically share. Designate a time for a moment of silence together to commemorate more solemn occasions.
  • This is a great time to start new traditions! What works for you and your household/community? For example, you could learn to play a new game – in-person if living together or virtually if not. You could look at photos from the past and exchange your favorites, have a dance party, or even do a virtual visit of a destination by checking out museums and attractions that have added an online visit function.
  • Find some places online that can offer support/community. Reach out for support or to offer support where possible. Stay connected to others, and remember: you are not alone.

Building Connections During Social Distancing

Over the past few months, people all over the country have been staying home for the health of their families, loved ones, and communities. Social distancing can be challenging, as we are not able to see our friends, families, or loved ones in person. This can easily exacerbate feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, and isolation. During the time we are asked to stay apart, we need each other more than ever.

Even though we may not be able to connect in the ways that we’re used to, we can still maintain our social and emotional health and well being by staying connected virtually. Our social wellness is connected to our sense of meaning and belonging, as well as to our emotional and metal health. Even connecting with others for just a few dedicated minutes per day can combat the impact of social distancing. It’s important to remember to let someone know what you need during this time, in addition to checking in with others.

Feelings of loneliness and isolation may disproportionately affect those whose primary sources of connection are community based. Although we may not be able to attend these events in person, there are ways to maintain those connections virtually.

Try the following ways of connecting with yourself and others virtually – compiled by our Margaret’s Place counselors – until it is safe to do so in person:

  • Write or create art about your experience and share it with family and friends. Look for healthy and safe ways to express your experience.
  • Nourish your physical self – the mind and body are connected. Look for ways to connect with nature, even if you can’t get outside.
  • Maintain routine where possible and set boundaries around the way you spend your time. Connect when you need to and disconnect when you need to.
  • Try to maintain your hobbies and interests. Find an online group who shares your interests.
  • Start a virtual book club with a group of friends. Read a book together and check in to discuss.
  • Schedule video calls with friends and family like you would schedule a work or school meeting.
  • Take virtual tours of museums, national parks, and more both in and beyond your own geographical region. It’s a great time to explore arts and culture!

Remember to keep in touch, and be well!

Act Now to Get Support for Survivors

YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED!

As our co-founder and chairman shared with CNN, the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting survivors of domestic violence and abuse – stay at home does not mean safe at home.

We’re asking you to contact your Congressional representatives to ask for more funding to support survivors.

You can find your Senators and their contact information HERE and your Representative and their contact information HERE. You can find Members’ social media handles HERE. If you have contacts in Congressional offices, email is also an effective way to get in touch with staff who are working remotely.

Call/email script:

“Hello. My name is [your name], and I am a constituent [calling/emailing] from [your location and, if applicable, your program]. COVID-19 disproportionately impacts victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and Congress must act to support them and address their needs. This includes providing more funding for programs and ensuring survivors have access to services, housing, and economic stability; waiving grant match requirements; ensuring immigrants have access to health, safety, and stability; and addressing the long term impacts of this crisis on survivors by addressing dwindling deposits into the Crime Victims Fund. We’re counting on you to protect victims and survivors.”

Thank you for taking action today!

If you are looking for other ways to support the cause, please consider making a gift to Safe At Home today.

Denim Day 2020

Denim Day is a campaign on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.

Each year, our peer leaders run an awareness campaign and join the Annual Denim Day Rally to raise awareness about sexual assault, dispel myths, and show their support for survivors. This year, we went digital!

Members of the Safe At Home team – including our co-founders Ali and Joe Torre – shared brief video messages throughout April to commemorate Denim Day:

The Annual New York City Rally also went fully virtual with a digital pledge and a series of videos from experts and survivors about sexual assault prevention. To spread the word about the event, they had a promotional poster that was actually designed by one of Safe At Home’s alumni interns, Julissa – check out her beautiful poster below, and watch the digital rally playlist now!

We have also prepared a guide in English and in Spanish for how to better support survivors of sexual assault and violence. You can read the full guide now. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or violence, you are not alone. You can contact any of the following hotlines for additional support.
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) 24-hour Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
National Domestic Violence Hotline 24-Hour Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 TDD: 1-800-787-3284
Safe Horizon Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline (NYC-based): 1-800-621-4673 TDD: 866-604-5350

Si usted o alguien conocido ha sido afectado(a) por la violencia sexual, no es su culpa. Usted no está solo(a). Hay ayuda disponible las 24 horas del día, 7 días por semana por medio de la Línea de Ayuda Nacional Online de Asalto Sexual: 800.656.4673 y online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

Introducing Safe At Home’s Stressbusters

Stress is the body’s physical, mental, and emotional reaction to any major event that requires an adjustment or response. It’s a normal part of life – but unfortunately is one that is exacerbated during times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Safe At Home’s program team is excited to share with you a set of Stressbuster suggestions to encourage you to work through and overcome your stress at this difficult time.

View our full stressbuster tip sheet, or check out some of the suggestions below:

  • Explore together! There are many virtual experiences available online to discover.
  • Notice, acknowledge, and honor what has changed for your family.
  • Take the time to grieve what was lost.
  • Check in with other family members and friends. Build your family’s support system despite physical distance.
  • Create new family traditions! Take the opportunity to explore and adopt new routines and rituals as a family.
  • Safety plan as a family. If someone gets sick or needs help, make sure everyone knows who to turn to for help.
  • Respect each other’s boundaries. Everyone needs a little alone time, it’s okay to ask for space for yourself.
  • Have compassion – everyone is doing the best they can!

Looking for more resources? Visit our COVID-19 resources page for more support.

You can also check out NYC Well’s list of digital apps for additional mental health support!

 

On COVID-19 & Domestic Violence – Joe Torre

Safe At Home’s co-founder Joe Torre shared one of his – often unseen – fears about the COVID-19 pandemic: children in homes with domestic violence. The full op-ed was published in CNN and is reprinted below:

Joe Torre: My fear for many children during the Covid-19 pandemic
Opinion by Joe Torre on CNN.com
Updated 3:08 PM ET, Thu April 9, 2020

When I was a young boy, I witnessed unrelenting verbal abuse and saw the results of the physical harm inflicted on my mother, Margaret. The perpetrator was not some stranger, but my father, a New York City cop. The emotional and physical pain she suffered scarred her life, and mine, too.

I was fortunate, though, during those dark days.

There were times that I would come home from school — one place I found solace — and see my dad’s car in the driveway and head straight to a neighbor’s house instead. Or I was able to escape by getting outside, and playing baseball, a game I loved and fortunately, for me, excelled at, thanks to skills that transported me from the ball fields of Brooklyn to the major leagues.

With the Covid-19 virus now consuming our lives and putting so many in harm’s way, I think back to my early life, and to the young children like me who witnessed domestic violence in their homes. As more states are taking prudent and necessary measures to keep people inside, “stay at home” will not always translate to “safe at home” in many households across the country.

A 2011 US Department of Justice study estimated that 18.8 million children were exposed to domestic violence in their lifetime.

With so many young Americans staying in or close to their homes during this crisis, we can expect that many children will witness violence in their homes.

In fact, research of past crises indicates that the number of incidents and the intensity of domestic violence and child abuse often increase during the most stressful of times.

CNN recently reported that in New York City, one domestic violence resource website saw its daily visitors double from March 18 to April 5.

During this unprecedented period of worry and concern, several critical issues come into play:

  • Survivors of domestic violence and child abuse can no longer rely on going to work or school as a reprieve from the dangers they face at home.
  • Safety plans that usually work under normal circumstances are now being strained.
  • Existing violence and abuse at home are being exacerbated by high levels of stress.
  • Children can’t reach for help because they can’t talk in front of an abusive parent.
  • Without school, there may not be anyone to “notice” signs of abuse and neglect and intervene appropriately.
  • An increase in runaway teenagers, who leave their violent homes, could lead to other dangers, including drug abuse, trafficking and homelessness.
  • Students contemplating suicide may not know where to reach out for help.

To make matters worse, the staggering unemployment rate could lead to an exponential growth in domestic violence incidents.

Unemployment surely will lead to more stress, and the Safe at Home Foundation, which my wife, Ali, and I founded 18 years ago to help young people and their families who have been exposed to domestic violence, has already witnessed a myriad of real world issues adversely affecting families, which might lead family members to engage in abusive or worrisome behaviors.

In the past few weeks, many family members who our counselors have built a relationship with have spoken to us about being worried about getting sick or not being able to pay for health care. Others fear they won’t have enough food to feed their families.

We hear less from the children, however, as outlets at schools and other social service locations are now closed. Schools, especially, are places children can talk to teachers, counselors and others, such as the “Margaret’s Place” teams that our foundation has placed in schools in New York, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and suburban New Jersey.

Named for my mother, “Margaret’s Place” safe rooms — part of the Safe at Home foundation and created in partnership with schools — are in-school locations in these cities, where children affected by domestic violence can go for help and talk to our counselors.

One time, out of curiosity, a young man who was thinking about joining a gang stopped by one of our locations. Over time, with help from our foundation, he started thinking about applying to colleges instead.

We are certainly not alone in our efforts to help children in abusive homes. There are countless local, state and national organizations committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence and giving children a safe environment at home. Our collective mission, now more challenging than ever before, has become even more essential.

With “Margaret’s Place” and others like it across the country now closed, children have fewer and fewer outlets to seek the kind of help and guidance that helped that young man.

Thankfully, we are able to continue to help families by finding them resources for food and other basic needs. And ahead of the school closures, the students we serve reviewed and revised their safety plans, were reminded of coping skills, and were reminded that the violence they are being exposed to is not their fault and that they are not the only ones going through it.

When the crisis has abated, we anticipate addressing the impact that this collective traumatic experience — and any previous and ongoing trauma that may have been exacerbated or untreated at this time — has had on students and their families. Behind the scenes, we are gathering resources on grief and loss and training our staff to respond to these types of issues as they may show up differently now in our school communities.

Our country is undoubtedly caught up in a crisis with no clear timeline or ending, and I fear that my experiences as a child will be experienced by countless others in the coming days, months and years. I worry not only about the health of my loved ones and friends, but also for the children who may not be safe at home. If you know of a loved one, friend or neighbor who is living in a violent household, please check in — while following social distancing guidelines — with them as often as you can.

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