By Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim Media Writer.
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, in the United States, nearly 25 people every minute, or 12 million each year, are victims of “rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.” Founded in the 1980s, the Napa-based organization NEWS-Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services provides a safe space for individuals to escape instances of sexual abuse and receive services in order to overcome physical and emotional trauma.
“The organization is really meant to provide people options and resources so that they can be safe and heal and go on to live thriving lives,” explained the organization’s executive director Tracy Lamb.
Working with about 1,300 domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors per year, NEWS offers a variety of services to those in Napa. The organization maintains a 24-hour immediate response help line, and with every call that is received, a staff member visits the scene of domestic violence incident to provide emergency support and resources to victims. Immediately following a traumatic event, NEWS offers a 4 bedroom house as well as a 2 bedroom modular that can accommodate a combined 15-20 people. While the average stay is about 60 days, all residents are able to live within the house until they feel safe to find other housing. In many cases, the housing program provided by NEWS allows victims to find a permanent residence and helps them gain independence rather than return to a previously violent situation.
“We want to give them as much freedom as possible to manage through their crisis in a way that works for them,” stated Lamb.
“It’s not about having more rules. It’s really about trying to give them the support they need to be able to figure out what’s next in their lives.”
Throughout the housing process, the staff maintains strong connections with victims to provide any necessary services. Not only do staff members guide individuals in their future steps but also advocate for them, attend court with them, and follow their case through its completion while simultaneously providing therapy. Many victims previously faced trauma as a child and can often struggle with poverty, substance abuse, mental health, or immigration issues. Domestic violence victims who benefit from NEWS’ services experience “trauma that can last a lifetime,” so it is imperative to the organization’s staff that they can provide support following an instance of trauma, said Lamb.
“We try to take a holistic approach to figuring out what would be the best approach to help them feel like they can move forward and remain safe,” she stated.
In order to end cycles of domestic violence and sexual abuse, NEWS conducts outreach in Napa’s schools and teaches young students how to maintain healthy and safe relationships. NEWS About Sports is the organization’s most recent school program that helps young participants learn how to communicate with each other and become effective bystanders while playing a variety of sports. The goal of the program is to equip students with necessary skills to help those who are facing trauma and escape an harmful situation if they experience violence themselves.
Over the years, NEWS has adapted its mission and services to recognize the needs of all abuse survivors. The organization was originally named Napa Emergency Women’s Services to provide the only safe place for female domestic violence victims within the area. Today, and after a successful rebranding to NEWS-Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services, the organization continues to give aid to women while also providing services to men and those of the LGBTQ community to ensure that no survivor is turned away.
In order to help the greatest number of individuals possible, NEWS maintains a proactive and committed staff who connect with survivors on a personal level. Responding to situations at all times of the day, the NEWS staff works tirelessly to meet the needs of all survivors who turn to the organization for help.
“The heart of NEWS is the staff that work here,” said Lamb.
“They’re the heroes of this organization.”
Lamb, who holds a degree in social work, originally joined NEWS as a domestic violence counselor 15 years ago and wanted to help those living in difficult situations. During her initial time with the organization, she realized she experienced abuse in past relationships and vowed to make NEWS a welcoming place for both clients and staff.
“We all have these kind of experiences, in one way or another, and if we don’t recognize that we’re all in this, then I think we’re not doing the best service to the people that are coming to us for help,” she stated.
As the organization continues to help domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors, Lamb and her staff remain determined to create a safer Napa community. In recent years, the organization has adopted a new approach in working with both survivors and abusers. Rather than immediately seek to prosecute domestic violence perpetrators, the staff first listens to victims to assess if they want to press charges and have often found that survivors want their spouse or family member to seek professional assistance instead.
With an unrelenting staff, the goal of NEWS remains to not only end cycles of domestic abuse and trauma but to “make sure that people who are leaving violent environments have all the choices that they need to really have a whole and safe and healthy life.”