At CCANO Project SAVE (Stopping Abuse through Victim Empowerment), staff members like Program Director, Allyson Tuttle, triage a variety of urgent symptoms for their clients, many of whom have never shared their stories of abuse before with anyone. “We are the emergency room to get people interim protection to get them back on their feet,” Tuttle stated. As the first responders to clients’ truths, CCANO staff like Tuttle not only provide the primary need of legal services, but also emotional support.
“By having an attorney with them in court, they automatically feel like they have a voice, that someone will speak up for them and give them reassurance,” Tuttle expressed about clients like Olga, a domestic abuse survivor originally from the Ukraine who found Project SAVE after being attacked by the father of her child. In peril and concerned for her child’s safety, she regained control of her life through Project SAVE’s assistance.
“I was really scared and didn’t know what to do,” Olga disclosed, “I didn’t go to the police because he threatened me with violence. I had to protect my child and myself, so I searched online and found Project SAVE. The counselor there helped me apply for a restraining order and walked me through how to file the papers with the courts. The lawyer from Project SAVE helped me get a restraining order and was very understanding. …Having her with me calmed me down and made me feel more comfortable.”
Through representation in court, Olga received full custody of her child and now encourages others in her shoes to be as brave as they can be. Survivors may resist taking their abuser to court because they fear that the judge may take their child away from them, particularly if they are not financially independent. However, a common theme in abusive relationships is control, including the abuser controlling all the finances. Project SAVE does not have income guidelines for this reason so that their services are accessible to all.
While Project SAVE empowers survivors to break the cycle of abuse legally, CCANO has additional counseling programs to serve the more emotional and psychological impact of abuse. Since undergoing counseling, Olga feels more confident, has found her own voice, and has earned a master’s degree in journalism.