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.”

Introducing the Safe At Home Peer Yearbook

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for our participants – and for how Safe At Home works with them. It also presented a new opportunity for us to work creatively as a team to continue supporting our participants at this difficult time

One of the core components of our Margaret’s Place model is peer leadership, where a group of youth gather every week to learn more about advocacy, activism, conflict resolution, leadership, and violence prevention. Our goal is for our peer leaders to become the next generation of advocates against violence and abuse. A few of these peer leaders in New York City also have the opportunity to join our team as a part-time member of our program staff when they graduate; known as alumni interns, these young adults are critical to ensuring youth voice is present in our work, and provide valuable mentorship and insight to our peer leaders.

This year, Safe At Home’s alumni team had planned to hold our first-ever Peer Leadership Summit through support provided by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. The summit would have been an in-person gathering of our peer leaders in New York – with an opportunity for those in Cincinnati and Los Angeles to submit videos or written pieces to be presented from afar. We envisioned an opportunity for each group of peer leaders to showcase what they’ve learned in a creative format. Unfortunately because of the pandemic, we had to re-envision the summit and the final capstone for our peer leaders.

Our amazing alumni team suggested a peer yearbook – a culminating document with highlights, advice, and photographs to commemorate the peer leader’s accomplishments. With content provided by our peer leaders and counselors, the alumni worked together to create the 2019-2020 Peer Yearbookcheck it out now!

We’re also excited to share with you some reflections from the year by our alumni team to commemorate their hard work as well. You don’t want to miss their thoughtful reflections on this challenging year.

Cyberbullying & Online Safety 101

Our Margaret’s Place counselor Ms. Fenten has created a great resource for online safety and cyberbullying awareness.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

Why Do Kids Bully?

Bullies don’t need a reason to hurt others. When asked, some replied:

  • Because it makes me feel stronger, smarter, or better than the person I’m bullying
  • Because I’m bullied at school or home
  • Because I see others doing it
  • Because I’m jealous of the other person
  • Because it’s one of the best ways to keep others from bullying me.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when a child, tween or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, stalked, or otherwise targeted by another child, tween or teen through email, texts, Instant Messages, websites, blogs, apps, videos or gaming. It is done deliberately and repeatedly. Cyberbullies might send mean comments, post embarrassing photos, or share private information about someone to humiliate or mock them online. Cyberbullying can happen with any type of technology including but not limited to computers, cell phones, tablets (iPad), or gaming systems (Xbox Live, Playstation Network, etc.).

Cyberbullying vs. Bullying

Cyberbullying:

  • Can be anonymous.
  • Can occur in your own home.
  • Can happen 24/7.
  • May seem inescapable.
  • Difficult for parents and teachers to monitor.
  • Can be viewed by an entire class, friendship group or community instantly.

Examples Of Cyberbullying

  • Starting rumors through instant messaging
  • Name calling in chat rooms (Ex. Video games)
  • Forwarding private messages to others
  • Insults through social media websites
  • Posting demeaning pictures of someone else
  • Making fake profiles on websites such as Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook

Did You Know… Teens spend an average of 26.8 hours a week online and 43% of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying

The Impact of Bullying & Cyberbullying

Youth who are bullied:

  • Have higher risk of depression and anxiety including these symptoms that may persist into adulthood:
    • Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness.
    • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
    • Loss of interest in activities.
  • May have increased thoughts about suicide.
  • Are more likely to have health complaints.
  • Are more likely to retaliate through extreme violent measures.

Recognizing the Signs of a Cyberbullying or Bullying Victim

  • Quickly switches screens or closes programs when someone walks by.
  • Uses the computer or phone until all hours of the night.
  • Gets unusually upset if she/he/they cannot use the computer or phone or after using the computer.
  • Suddenly stops and avoids using the internet.
  • Appears nervous, stressed or jumpy when a message appears or after looking at their computer or cell phone.
  • Avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer.
  • Becomes withdrawn from friends and family.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Increased signs of low self-esteem (depression, anxiety).
  • Resists attending school or social events.

What To Do If Your Child Has Been Cyberbullied

  • Do not respond to cyberbully.
  • Save the evidence (print out or take a screenshot).
  • Block or delete bully.
  • Report it to website or app.
  • Meet with school and administrators to discuss a plan of action.
  • If your child has been threatened online, report to police.

Cyber Safety Tips

  • You need to explain that it’s your job to keep them safe and be clear about your goals and expectations.
  • Set limitations and boundaries upfront.
    • Create a contract! For example, no phones overnight, no downloading apps without approval, etc.
    • What are the consequences if they break the rules? Have them in writing!
  • Talk about cyber-safety and ask questions on what they use the internet for and how.
  • Research apps before allowing a child to download one, and adjust privacy settings within apps accordingly.
  • Password protect phones, tablets, etc.
  • Look into safety apps (OurPact, Bark, Net Nanny).
  • Teach your children what is and is not okay online, and what to do if something happens.
  • Monitoring is mandatory – keep tabs on what they do and have conversations on their activities.
  • Lead by example:
    • Talk to them about how you use the internet/social media.
    • Give your teen your full attention.
    • Designate phone-free times and increase family activities that don’t involve social media (board games, card games, reading together, going for walks, watching a movie, etc.).

Additional Resources

www.Safekids.org

www.commonsensemedia.org www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide/parent-guide www.cybercitisenship.org

www.safeteens.com

Here is a downloadable PDF of Ms. Fenten’s tips!

Resources

Spring Campaigns at our New York City schools

Each season, Safe At Home’s peer leaders decide on an issue that is negatively impacting their communities and create a campaign to raise awareness and provide resources on this topic. This spring, they chose mental health awareness to focus on, especially in the difficult time of COVID-19. The peer leaders, a small group of students from each school, were trained in-depth on advocacy, leadership, and mentorship. With support from their Margaret’s Place counselors and teachers, the peer leaders were able to create campaigns at each school focusing on helping students with their mental health by creating virtual workshops, resources, and “drop in” classrooms.

At Brooklyn Academy of Science & the Environment (BASE), the peer leaders decided to focus the campaign on Mental Health Awareness. As a form of virtual tabling, tip cards with information on 24-hour resources were created by our alumni intern Roxy and emailed out to all the students. In the same email a little blurb was included about the importance of talking about mental health issues and informing everyone to stop by the Margaret’s Place virtual classroom for more resources, future workshops, and music hour. During our peer leadership meetings, we held a music hour where we discussed the impact of current affairs on individual and collective mental health, the importance of breaking the taboo of talking about mental health issues, and how this makes its way to music.

At the College Academy, peer leaders participated in workshops and developed materials for other classmates on the importance of talking about mental health and breaking the stigma. This message was further supported in Margaret’s Place newsletters to staff, students, and parents, which highlighted how stigma about mental health impacts all individuals. The campaign explained how, like physical health, mental health exists on a spectrum and seeking care for one’s mental health should not be seen by society as a weakness. Our counselor, alumni intern, and peer leaders created 5 Instagram posts shared throughout the week of campaign, which highlighted the campaign slogan #NowUseeMe. Posts included information about mental health, understanding anger and how emotions impact mental health, myths and facts about mental health, impacts of long term stress, and positive affirmations and stress relief activities.

 

At JHS143, our counselor and alumni intern developed a campaign activity guide that was emailed to Peer Leaders and students to raise awareness on Mental Health. This topic was also highlighted in student, parent and staff newsletters with information on mental health, how to break the stigma, and ways to relieve stress and increase positive coping skills. The campaign highlighted the important message that mental health and physical health both exist on spectrums and deserve the same important attention. The need for mental health to be destigmatized in order to help all people was the core message of the campaign. The campaign activity guide included information on specific mental health diagnoses that students often express either having symptoms of or interests in knowing more about, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The guide also gave comprehensive tools to destress, including breathing exercises, grounding activities, and positive coping skills.

The Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science campaign, “It’s All About Health!” focused on 3 different aspects of health, including mental health, social-emotional health, and physical health. Throughout the campaign, parents, students, and staff were sent newsletters, activities, art prompts, and information across these areas. Newsletters provided information on self-care, staying connected despite social distancing, boundaries, and more.

At JHS217, the Margaret’s Place spring campaign focused on spreading awareness against domestic violence in the age of COVID-19. While shifting to a virtual campaign came with challenges, the team of peer leaders and counselors were able to expand the reach of the campaign to hopefully impact the JHS217 larger community. Students received information on how to help a friend or neighbor who may be experiencing domestic violence. They hosted a call to action, asking students to create posters with information on domestic violence that they can share in a safe way. Students hung posters in their apartment buildings, shared information on social media, and with their friends and family. Teachers also received information about how to talk to their students about domestic violence. As part of the spring campaign, they facilitated 16 in-class workshops about domestic violence and how the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges.

Even in such unprecedented times, the peer leaders and Margaret’s Place counselors worked hard on their campaigns, making them accessible online as well as providing resources and help regardless of the difficulties they may have faced. The Mental Health Awareness campaigns this spring were incredibly successful, and both the peer leaders and counselors worked hard to create beneficial resources for their fellow students.

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!

 

Not Everyone Can Be Safe At Home – A Message on COVID-19

For thousands of people, home is the most dangerous place for them to be.

Survivors of domestic violence and child abuse often rely on going to work or school as a reprieve from the dangers they face at home. With teleworking and virtual school in place, survivors are at greater risk. In fact, research of past crisis events highlight that the number of incidents and the intensity of domestic violence and child abuse often increase at these times.

If you or someone you know is concerned about sheltering in place or social distancing in an abusive home, please call 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

While our Margaret’s Place rooms may be physically closed, our work continues – and we adapt. Our counselors are:

  • Reaching out to all of our counseling participants to provide transitional support, such as safety planning, information on safe coping strategies, and referrals to other mental health practices if they wish to continue counseling.
  • Compiling informational sheets and packets to provide techniques on coping with stress, supporting self-care, and more.
  • Seeking new ways to offer our violence prevention workshops virtually.

We also wanted to share information with all of you. Please visit our new COVID-19 resources page for some helpful tips and additional resources that you may find useful. We will continue to update this page in the days and weeks ahead.

On behalf of the entire Safe At Home team, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well at this time. Please know that we are here for you.

As ever, our mission is to educate to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives. Given that the need is greater than ever, we hope that we can continue to count on you to make our work possible. We thank you helping increase the impact of our efforts, and we wish health and safety to you and your families. You can support us by visiting joetorre.org/donate, or by mailing a check to our new temporary address at:

Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation
138-44C Queens Blvd, Suite #339
Briarwood, NY 11435

Thank you,

Tracy Weber-Thomas
Acting Executive Director

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