“We are thankful and hopeful because of the generosity of our community and because of the strength and courage of our survivors,” says Loretta K. Davis, Executive Director of The Retreat, the East Hampton–based nonprofit whose mission is to provide safety, shelter and support for victims of domestic abuse and to break the cycle of family violence.
Reflecting back on a year like no other while also looking to the future, Davis discusses how The Retreat has adapted in the age of COVID, ways in which people can support their life-saving work, and why it is more important than ever to give.
On Challenges of the Coming Season…
There were expected and unexpected challenges this year, but The Retreat never missed a beat. Our team worked 24/7 to provide life-saving services to children and adults impacted by relationship violence and abuse despite the pandemic. The challenge continues to be: How do we continue to break the cycle of violence and keep victims safe while this pandemic rages on?
The holidays don’t stop instances of abuse. In fact, they may exacerbate them. Victims are trapped and isolated at home due to virus quarantines. And, stressful holidays can explode abusive behavior. Victims have no safe space to escape or privacy to make a lifesaving call. The abusers control their every move.
The Retreat works hard through many channels to make sure that families know about our free services, our chat platform and multilingual 24/7 hotline [631-329-2200]? The Retreat staff are essential workers and always available, regardless of misinformation provided by the abuser.
On the Vulnerability of Children When Schools Are Closed…
Part of The Retreat’s mission is to provide prevention education. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we have been challenged to reach children and youth through remote prevention education programs, which are offered in the schools if schools are closed. Our children need to learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and that they can reach out for help. That learning should not be interrupted. The law requires that schools report child abuse, but if children are not in school, child abuse will go undetected.
When we help families, their struggles, success and identity are not disclosed, in order to keep them safe. Victims are often fearful of seeking help in the first place. How do we keep the focus on families less fortunate than we are when there is so much distraction?
On the Value of Giving and Funding…
Since incidents of abuse and violence have been on the rise, The Retreat must find new ways to meet and fund the increased demand for services. The Retreat now has a waitlist for counseling clients. Our work cannot stop. Lives hang in the balance. These are challenging times for all families. By giving to others, sharing our hope, we help survivors change their lives and find safety.
The community has been tremendously generous, but how do we keep that support coming? The pandemic has caused financial instability to businesses and individuals, and we know we will face cuts from the county and state. Will our community, and the local and federal government, recognize the importance of funding to support these critical services? The Retreat and others must advocate for that funding to not only continue but to increase. How will we continue to be able to provide free services without the needed funding?
On Adjusting and Adapting and Maintaining the Vision…
We transitioned quickly to remote services and programs in response to the pandemic. While the shelter doors remained fully open and services there are in person, counseling switched to phone and video conferencing sessions. Legal services quickly moved to video conferencing with the courts and clients. A record high number of petitions for protective orders were granted.
Other than shelter services, all services were provided remotely through innovative strategies using new platforms and technologies. Changing the way in which we provide services was challenging but we did it! At the same time, the lockdowns provided us with the opportunity to broaden our reach to clients, schools and even volunteers through long-distance learning and phone and video conferences sessions.
We have learned so much! We have learned new technologies, which we will continue to employ as we move forward. I envision a future where The Retreat will use a combination of effective remote and in person means to provide services and programs. Access to services is key in order to break the cycle of abuse. Flexibility and adaptability are essential to meet the needs of clients/survivors. Services lead to change, independence, freedom from violence, sustainability and a safer community.
On the Future of Fundraising…
We adjusted quickly and transformed our major June event to a virtual one. We were safely able to have an outdoor tennis event in the fall and while there have been some wonderful third-party events to benefit The Retreat, live events were for the most part, cancelled. Our plan is to move away from big events and focus on donor support by telling the story of our work and the survivors who inspire us.
How People Can Help…
- Volunteer at our thrift store in the Bridgehampton Commons.
- Donate winter clothes to the thrift store.
- Participate in Adopt a Family for the holidays (www.allagainstabuse.org)
- Become a Shining Star of the Circle of Hope ($10/month)
- Listen when someone tells you they have been abused
- Volunteer as a spokesperson for The Retreat
- Donate a working van
- Provide a dinner to the shelter clients (631-329-4398)
- Spread the word about our free services for everyone
- Join a Retreat Committee
The Retreat Hotline: 631-329-2200