When Sara White of Hinesburg saw there was an opening on the board of directors of Steps to End Domestic Violence, she decided to apply.
“I know what domestic violence can do to families,” she said. “The mission was important to me and I had time to volunteer.”
In February of 2018, she was appointed to a two-year term on the board. Founded in 1974 and formerly known as Women’s House of Refuge and then Women Helping Battered Women, Steps to End Domestic Violence has a two-pronged mission. The nonprofit assists people in transitioning to safe independent living, as well as fostering a culture of justice, equity and safety in the community, starting with education. The new name was chosen in 2016 to be more inclusive. Among the organization’s services are a 24/7 emergency hotline, emergency and transitional housing, legal advocacy and other support programs.
White stressed that Steps to End Domestic Violence doesn’t just help with the transition to a safe situation, but also assists with the subsequent healing process.
“A really important message is that these services are offered through an empowerment model,” White said. “People are offered all the resources and information to make an informed decision but they get to choose the path on their own. They have the space and support to make choices.” Last year, 1,868 individuals were offered services by the program, almost a third of whom were children. Steps provided emergency shelter to 226 adults and 121 children and legal support for 367 individuals. The hotline fielded almost 3,800 calls.
As part of the organization’s educational mission, staff members visit area schools, businesses and organizations to talk about how to recognize and approach victims of domestic violence. This provides human resource departments and others with information to assist employees who might be in living in dangerous circumstances. A page on the Steps website provides printable posters with information on available resources.
White noted that from 1994 to 2017, half of Vermont’s homicides were domestic related and in 2017, that number went up to 65%. Beyond the physical and emotional damage done to victims of abuse, the violence creates a ripple effect which can have an economic impact on families, neighborhoods and places of employment.
White is a Communications and Student Services Specialist for UVM’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences. She is about to start her eighth year at the position, supporting internal and external communications and managing web content. A very rewarding part of the job is advising first year students.
“It’s really wonderful to work with young people,” she said. “They come into these majors because they want to help people.”
White also teaches online public relations and writing classes for Southern New Hampshire University, a position she has also held for eight years. The 44-year-old White has lived in Hinesburg for over a decade and loves the small town feel of her home.
“It’s a wonderful, walkable community,” she said.
Another form of walking will take place on Oct. 5 when Steps to End Domestic Violence hosts their annual fundraiser called Take Steps in Their Shoes, starting at ArtsRiot on Pine Street. White said the organization continues to solicit sponsorship for the event and to collect donations.
And by the way, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.