Safe Homes of Orange County celebrated its 31st Anniversary with a Celebration of Hope Masquerade Ball on Friday.

“We are here tonight to ‘unmask’ intimate partner violence and human trafficking,” stated President and Chair of Safe Homes Board of Directors Christine Fitzgerald.

She pointed out that this has many meanings. It can mean shining the light on a growing crisis in our society, and right here in our own community, that some may prefer to keep in the shadows. It can mean undoing prejudices and misrepresentations about what intimate partner violence and human trafficking are, what victims look like, where they come from, and the victim-blaming that so often accompanies this flawed thinking.

It can also mean gaining a deeper understanding that all of these issues are the result of a larger system of oppression, and these outcomes cannot be eradicated until the root ‘isms’ are acknowledged and addressed.

Fitzgerald sounded the alarm; saying now is the time for action. “It is time to give a voice to the voiceless and foster independence and the right to safety. It is time for ‘hope’ to be more than just a buzzword and transform into an unstoppable motivating force for doing what is right, no matter the cost.”

Cornerstone Family Healthcare received the Mildred Warren Good-Neighbor Award as Safe Homes of Orange County celebrated its 31st Anniversary with a Celebration of Hope Masquerade Ball on Friday, October 20, 2017. Hudson Valley Woman/CHUCK STEWART, JR.

The hope that Fitzgerald spoke of was present in each of the three honorees and one organization being honored at the ball. Mauri Architects, who designed Safe Homes’ new shelter, received this year’s Hope Award. The Mildred Warren Good-Neighbor Award was presented to Cornerstone Family Healthcare who has long been a supporter of Safe Homes and its mission.  The Family Justice Center Award was given to New York State Assemblyman James Skoufis who has been a strong advocate for Safe Homes. The Jane Chertock Legacy Award was presented to Shannon Wong for her steadfast commitment to end gender-based violence and to ensure justice and equality for all.

While one in three women will be abused by partners in their lifetime, intimate partner violence is preventable. Safe Homes Executive Director Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier said,

“What we know unequivocally is that in order to address gender-based violence we must work toward ending all forms of oppression. Not only must we address the intersectionality between racism and sexism, we must also understand violence in the context of how criminal and civil systems impact communities of color.

“Until the most marginalized are free, none of us are truly free. If we want to end sexism and racism, then we must work to dismantle the social systems built to support them.

Those of us that have power and/or privilege – whether born, earned, or taken – must do the difficult self-work towards this goal,” Kostyal-Larrier said.

Safe Homes of Orange County is the only private, not-for-profit agency in Orange County, NY dedicated to assisting survivors of domestic violence, teen-dating violence, and human trafficking by providing free and confidential services. Trained advocates are available 24/7.

You can reach their crisis hotline at 845.562.5340.

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