Celebrating 10 years of safety for families
It was a judge’s worst nightmare – in 1998 a father shot and killed his ex-wife and 2-year-old daughter outside the one place he knew they would be – the court-mandated center where he picked up his daughter for visits. This tragic Seattle-area killing exposed the critical need for a safer approach to visitation and exchange when one parent has abused the other.
That’s why Saving Grace started Mary’s Place in 2006. We understand that while leaving an abusive relationship is hard, the most dangerous moments can come after it’s over. Because violence can escalate when an abuser loses power and control over their partner, up to 75 percent of domestic violence homicides happen after the victim leaves the relationship. When children are involved, they may be placed in harm’s way or used to manipulate or hurt the adult survivor. And because courts often grant the offending parent some form of custody, the survivor may be forced to interact with their abuser, putting the survivor and their children at risk of violence, kidnapping, and stalking.
“Asking the parties to work out their own visitation details would be comparable to asking a former hostage to return to his captors alone, without any weapons or back-up support, to negotiate the surrender of weapons, and the release of other hostages or goods.” -Julie Kunce Field, Court Review, Fall 1998
Thanks to the support of our community, Mary’s Place provides a safe space for supervised visits and exchanges for families who have experienced domestic violence. In addition to giving survivors and their children a sense of security, Mary’s Place helps children form healthier relationships with the parent who was abusive.
From staggered arrival times and locations for each parent to trauma-informed advocacy for children, Mary’s Place employs best practices in preventing post-separation violence and has gained Saving Grace recognition as a leader in this field. Mary’s Place is one in a highly-specialized national network of domestic-violence specific visitation centers with operating standards overseen by the Office of Violence Against Women, Department of Justice, the only such program in Central Oregon.
Last year, Mary’s Place helped keep 66 survivors and 105 children safe by facilitating 1,450 visits and exchanges. Over the course of each year, Mary’s Place serves nearly 400 people by providing not only visits and exchanges, but also case management, victim advocacy, and coordinated community response. We’re proud to say that since we opened Mary’s Place a decade ago, no children or parents have been kidnapped, injured, or killed while participating in the program, and 98 percent of all victims served to-date have reported an increased sense of safety for themselves and their children thanks to Mary’s Place.
We’ve also found that some offending parents are able to let go of their abusive behaviors and develop healthy relationships with their children and future partners, thanks in part to their participation – sometimes over many years – in Mary’s Place.
“Parents who have used violence need some kind of motivation – human beings need motivation for change,” explains executive director Janet Huerta. “It’s important for a parent who has used violence to be able to see their children because it may be their greatest motivation for change.”
But there are more families who need our help. Hear from some of the brave parents we serve by watching the video below and consider supporting this life-saving work with a gift. Together, we can help families imagine a life without violence.