Hope’s Door: Empowering Victims of Domestic Violence

By Sarah Ellen Berman

When domestic violence strikes, a victim’s world is upended. Safety becomes a primary concern. Seemingly insurmountable problems loom large. Solace, care and compassion await at Hope’s Door.

The main mission of Hope’s Door is to end domestic violence and facilitate the transition to a safe environment for all victims.

This private nonprofit organization, formerly known as the Northern Westchester Shelter, has a facility in Pleasantville, and will be opening a new location in Ossining in the fall; in addition, it has a residential shelter in Westchester.

At the 13th Annual Hope’s Door Teen Symposium in October of 2011, teens around Westchester County gathered to hear, among others, Lisa Regina (second from right) actress, writer and founder of A Write to Heal present her personal—and very public—story about relationship abuse. Gathered around her are, from left, Patricia Butler, Elizabeth G. Butler Angel Foundation; Andrea Naso Nord, Director of Development, Hope’s Door; and Diane DeFilippis, Teen Program Coordinator, Hope’s Door.

“The most important thing we could do for victims of domestic violence is to offer hope,” explained executive director Carla Horton. Many clients have told her that Hope’s Door is “a place where I could be hopeful about the future.” The organization provides a vast array of services including a hotline, shelter, safety planning, counseling, support groups, legal referrals, teen dating abuse prevention and community education.

The initial point of contact for many victims with Hope’s Door is the hotline, answered by an expertly trained staff twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are completely confidential. In 2011, a total of 1,027 calls were fielded by the hotline.

In addition, twelve residents of the town of New Castle received assistance from Hope’s Door. “It doesn’t matter what your socioeconomic status or race is,” Horton noted, “Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence.”

Board member and secretary Carey Vames is one of the many dedicated volunteers at Hope’s Door. She relishes her role as “ambassador” at many events including community days in Chappaqua and Ossining. In October she attends the Annual Teen Symposium at Pace and leads a small discussion group.

“I’m very passionate about it,” she said. This forum focuses on teaching adolescents about the occurrence of abuse in teen dating and ways to prevent it. In addition, Vames, who is also an EMT on the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corp has developed a program for children in the shelter to demonstrate the positive side of an ambulance. These youngsters fear the siren’s wail because it reminds them of tragic events in their lives. “When you hear the siren it means you’re important. Other people have to get out of the way,” Vames explains.

Elizabeth Grant is a survivor of domestic violence, thanks to the care and guidance provided by Hope’s Door. The staff helped her secure funding for an alarm system for her home.

“It made me feel safe,” Grant recalled. “I could go to bed at night without fear.” When she had to appear in court and face her ex-husband, Director Horton accompanied her. “She was an advocate for me,” Grant noted.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. For more info and to support Hope’s Door and/or to attend their annual luncheon on October 11, go to hopesdoorny.org.

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