*This transcript was compiled using automated software — spelling and punctuation errors are possible.
Jason: Hello Liz and welcome to the show, thank you so much for joining me, it’s a real pleasure to have you.
Liz: Well thank you for having me!
Jason: So SafeNest Las Vegas, tell us for the listeners who aren’t familiar, what’s your mission, what are you involved in, where is your work focused?
Liz: SafeNest is a domestic and sexual violence agency working on ending those two epidemics in Clark County, Nevada, which is the home to Las Vegas, but really within Nevada as a whole.
Jason: And how do you go about doing that? What are your services that you’re delivering?
Liz: Great question. We work in three distinct buckets: prevention, protection, and empowerment. In the prevention space we work with kids that are at risk of repeating the cycles of violence that they’ve seen and witnessed and been part of in their homes, as well as youth in the larger community to raise awareness and understanding about what healthy relationships look like.
We also work with the abusers, which most people don’t talk about this side of our epidemic enough, but abusers have on average anywhere between three to seven survivors in their lifetime. So while my protection arm, which I’ll talk about in a minute, does a fantastic job of getting survivors safe, helping them heal and move out of those abusive relationships, what we don’t want to be doing is creating a vacuum now for a new survivor to move into. So we work with abusers to end their cycle of violence as well.
Then in our protection space we have a lot of the traditional domestic sexual violence services such as a hotline, a shelter, we work in the courts doing temporary protection orders and all those kinds of things. And where we intersect with Beacon – your amazing product – is we also do Metro response.
So in Clark County there’s a hundred thousand domestic violence 911 calls every year. We work with Las Vegas Metro, who carries 70,000 of those calls, and 15,000 to 20,000 of those are going to result in an arrest. We are on those calls. The goal is to be on every call in person, but right now we are about half in person and half doing what we call safety net which is meeting the victim over the phone versus in person.
That program has really driven down our homicide rates in Clark County, Nevada, which is one of the most dangerous places in the country for women being murdered by men.
Then finally we work in our empowerment arm, which is really our long-term services. We work with undocumented survivors who are navigating the Visa system. We do a lot of intensive counseling because we don’t want to just put a band aid over the domestic violence portion of your abuse or sexual violence portion of your abuse. We want to talk about the poly-victimization most of our clients have experienced over a lifetime and the solutions and habits and beliefs and behaviors that that abuse has created so that this pattern of being in abusive relationships doesn’t continue for both our survivors as well as our abusers.
And then we run a transitional housing program. Housing is the most requested resource for domestic violence survivors and it’s the most underfunded. So we run that program in partnership with other agencies and help get our survivors into safe healing households.
Jason: That is a lot of intense, but I’m certain very gratifying, work to be involved with. I’m wondering, how did that program even get started, working with Las Vegas Metro, where did this program begin?
Liz: Well, sadly it began with a household of five getting murdered in a house that police had responded to several times before. At the time, the captain in that area, Captain Larkin, whose now Vice Deputy Chief Larkin, she recognized that her officers were having a hard time closing the loop. Officers do what officers are great at, they get the scene safe, and they hopefully get the bad person – to use that language – incarcerated so that the family’s safe. And they had done that at this household two or three times before and the abuser, we have a 12-hour hold, the abuser was released and came back and murdered the entire family.
So that is where Metro, Captain Larkin in particular, said, “Enough is enough”. We’ve got to figure out a pattern to work here. That coincided with me joining SafeNest, coming in as their CEO. Captain Larkin gave the project to Lieutenant Hatchett at the time, and he called me up and said, “Hey, I’ve got a wild idea, what would it look like for you guys to be joining domestic violence 911 calls?” And me being fairly new to the field, I was like, “That sounds great.”
So we started to dig in. I’m a data driven leader, so we started to dig into the stats and here’s what we found that was incredibly daunting but at the same time an absolute green light of why we have to move forward with this. Only 4% of survivors who are murdered will reach out to an agency like SafeNest in the 12 months before they’re murdered. So the fact that only 4% are reaching out to these agencies who are designed to help and protect and stave off homicide, that’s an issue. But the correlating stat is that 86% will have an interaction with law enforcement and those stats come out of the Jeanne Geiger Violence Center.
And so it made sense to us, right? We have to pair ourselves with law enforcement to be in the place where the survivors who are most at risk of homicide are. So we started really small, we started with just one jurisdiction of the eleven jurisdictions our Metro has.
We started in one and essentially how it worked is officers responded to a scene, and if there was an arrest or probable cause for an arrest but the perpetrator had fled, then we would be called out. We committed to each other that we’ll respond to that call within 20 minutes, and their commitment was then to stay on scene for at least a half an hour while we are with the survivor.
When we then studied this work, which we did for one year in the one jurisdiction, we then looked at the data. And what we found was they went from an average of seven homicides annually to one, and that one homicide that remained neither SafeNest nor Metro had had any contact with the victim. The other thing we found was that repeat calls for service decreased by 90%. So what was happening was survivors were reaching out to us now because they realized we were available. This created this window for that jurisdiction because their 911 calls decreased, and they could focus on the highly lethal perpetrators.
That’s then when we started to see more strangulation victims surfacing because the volume of calls was decreasing, and we could see that that was creating this opportunity for Metro to get the most lethal perpetrators behind bars. So it was absolute synergy in the making, and I don’t want to say it was not without a lot of hard work, I had a lot of pushback from my advocates that had been doing this work for a long time that, “we don’t partner with police, we don’t work with police, and all the reasons we don’t work with police because they are not trauma informed…” on and on.
There were a lot of barriers that we had to take down as an agency and Metro dealt with the same, things like officers not wanting to wait on scene, officers not calling us, all kinds of things. So Lieutenant Hatchett and I worked very closely together to ensure that he and I had a solid working relationship because there were things, we were doing that I had to fix and there were things his officers were doing that he had to fix, and the program just got stronger and stronger.
Then right when Covid hit, so early 2020, we got a half a million dollars to go Metro wide with the program, which the timing couldn’t have been better, right? Because now we’re in every jurisdiction that Metro covers. We’re on 10,000 calls a year, and while our domestic violence calls during Covid jumped 20% both from a 911 perspective and also from a SafeNest hotline perspective, our homicides actually decreased. And that speaks to this gap, what we’ve been able to do in that space.
So that’s why we started the program, that’s where it’s gone. That was the magic that Beacon brought because before we were using this big map on the wall with these little car magnets, and you know here goes a car to this pin, here goes a car to that pin. It wasn’t sustainable.
And our program, we use staff, but we also use a ton of volunteers, so what we were able to do was really bring in a volunteer workforce that could work from home, has the app, is able to log in, log out, clock in, clock out, say they’re safe on a call and all of those kinds of things. And then I can pull all these wonderful reports because all of the time, the pushback I get from the different jurisdictions is it takes SafeNest forever to get there. But then here I come with the data, and I’m like, “oh our average response time in your jurisdiction is 15 minutes, so you’re welcome.” So that’s the magic that Beacon was really able to provide us this much needed system. And I’ll tell you what, we work with a lot of 911 dispatchers, and they’re jealous, right? They’re commenting how fluid our system is, that it’s not a legacy system, that we can do all these things that they don’t have access to do.
So that’s the long-winded answer of why we started, where we are, and sort of the magic that Beacon brought to the whole equation.
Jason: That’s really awesome to hear and our staff just really appreciates the impact that you’re making, it’s such a clear impact, and it’s really such a great thing to be working with you.
There was a lot in there that I’ve got questions about so allow me to backtrack a bit. The first thing, and we hear this all the time with crisis response groups, especially in substance use, opioid overdoses, mental health, but particularly in your case with domestic violence is that we hear, “What about the risks to your advocates, your responders?” Because most people know the statistic that for police, the most dangerous call is domestic violence. So how do you address safety concerns because I’m sure the police are asking if you really want to send social workers to dangerous scenes and at the same time your advocates might be concerned about walking into something that’s dangerous. So how do you address those possible concerns on both sides?
Liz: Yes, so first of all the key is to get my staff and my volunteers on ride-alongs with the police, when they want to. Because there has to be an understanding of the different worlds that we both work in and a shared desire. No officer that I have met is like, “Oh, domestic violence, who cares.” That is sort of a myth that some advocates may have about the police. I’m not saying there aren’t officers like that, but the majority of officers that we work with have every desire to not end up going back to that household, for there to be options for this survivor and for the family and for the suffering to stop. And so both sides need to know we have a shared desire for that.
So we’ve got many jurisdictions, one being North Las Vegas. I had a 15-minute meeting with their chief of police there and explained to her the program, explained that their commitment is they have to wait for us to get there and then they have to give us at least 30 minutes to establish rapport. She says no problem, signed the MOU, and we’re going to be up and running in that jurisdiction in January. But then I have another police department where the chief isn’t interested in implementing the program because he isn’t interested in having his officers stay on the scene. Even with all the data, even with all the stats, he doesn’t want to. So what I would tell any partner agency, if they want to do this type of work, the police chief has got to be bought in. This cannot be driven by a well-meaning patrol officer or a detective. Unless the chief signs the MOU you do not go live because you don’t have the buy-in and that buy-in has to come from the top down.
That takes working on those relationships. I have been to cocktail parties just so that I can talk to the police chief, right? Just so I can do the navigating politically that I need to do. But that is a reality of the program.
What I would recommend for anybody is what we did, which is pilot the program. Pilot the program small and then get your data set and then get the chief’s buy-in. One police chief has to support the pilot though, so just make sure, whomever is running your police department is bought in.
The other thing is my advocates had a ton of safety concerns, right? If I’m pulling up to a house in my car and a neighbor is friends with the abuser and they see my license plate, there were a ton of things like that that became concerns.
So we kind of did a MythBusters and we wrote down every sort of safety concern that my advocates had and then we said, okay, realistically, does this happen? Do these make sense? For instance the big one was people were afraid they were going to be followed or they would somehow be identified, and that’s never happened! We did once have an incident where my advocate responded, the intel we had was the perpetrator had fled, and my advocate was sitting in the kitchen with the survivor and the abuser came up out of the basement and entered the room. Now that is exactly why Metro stays on scene, right? So Metro’s there, but I don’t want to downplay how scary that situation was, your heart would be racing, it’s very scary situation. But Metro was right there and arrested the guy and they took care of the scene immediately.
So that happened, we dissected it internally, and we adjusted. We said we need to make sure wherever we’re meeting with a survivor that Metro has a direct line of sight in situations where an arrest hasn’t yet been made. So we adjust.
The other thing I would tell my advocates who were concerned is that we go to court all the time and sit across from the abuser with our client. And over doing this for 30 plus years we’ve never had an issue beyond the setting of the court. No one being stalked or information being given out. It doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, but if we’ve been doing it for 30 years and it’s not happened, the likelihood of it happening is low. So we talk through every concern and it’s a constant conversation.
And when we began, I told my advocates, when we rolled out the program, that this is happening and those of you that want to be a part of it, thank you. Those of you that don’t can stay on the hotline and that’s okay too. You know, I’m not going to shame you for not wanting to go out on the scene. But since then we’ve had tons of volunteers come through the program and cycle through the program and we have not had an issue.
So I think a lot of the safety concerns are inflated but we are still interested in them. We have those one-off scenarios that cause us to talk and to adjust. It’s always a conversation and we don’t go into it lightly. That’s why we have Metro stay on the scene, and if Metro leaves, we leave. Metro secures the scene before we get there, that’s a key, we’re not in the car with Metro, we are not riding along with them and doing that work. They are calling us in after the scene is secure, and that’s important for folks to know.
Jason: So that’s actually my next question. What is the user journey like? How does this actually play out, right? From a technological perspective, step by step, somebody initiates the call to the hotline or 911 or both, what steps then happen?
Liz: So a 911 domestic violence call is placed, or sexual violence call is placed. Dispatch officers are deployed to the scene and in our jurisdiction two officers have to respond to every domestic violence call. Officers arrive, they do a very quick assessment as to whether or not it rises to the level of arrest or probable cause for an arrest, but maybe the perpetrator has fled.
As soon as they make that assessment, they call back to their dispatcher to relay the scene is safe and then the dispatch calls my hotline. I have one staff person per shift whose job it is to man our dispatch. They are in Beacon, they put the address and all the information into Beacon, it gets broadcast out to whoever’s active in that shift for those particular zip codes. An advocate will see it and press a button that they will respond which then sends a text out to all other advocates who had been alerted to say it’s being handled, and that person who said they would go then goes to the scene.
When they get to the scene, they indicate in the system that they have arrived and then go into advocate mode and work with the survivor. Then we they leave the scene they hit another button that says the response has ended.
So all that information gets recorded, it goes into our client database because what happens is then I have hotline advocates who call back to that house three to four hours later, depending on if we did an emergency temporary protection order or whatever the follow up requirement is.
And there are different protocols for different situations, for instance we’ll deploy another advocate out to the hospital if the client was transported to the hospital. So the work continues, and it just comes out of the mobile response Beacon program and goes into our client data.
Jason: Well, I don’t want to make too many plugs here, but we will have to have another conversation because in a month we’re going to be releasing case reports so that may be another solution for you.
Liz: There’s one other thing that we do that I really want those working in my field to hear. We get a verbal release from clients to share any of what they’ve experienced with the officers. It doesn’t always make sense to get feedback from a client, but if they are willing to tell us a little bit about the Metro response that can be useful, so we are asking in that context.
Our clients say incredible things about the officers and all the amazing things they did. And I will tell you, as someone working in this field, officers do not hear enough gratitude. And so when we share our data in a quarterly report with our police, we include these comments, and particularly compelling comments about an officer we get that release from the client and then give that comment to their captains, and let me tell you that goes so far in how officers view our survivors.
Our Metro police force is 90% male. This space is not as understood as it is for those of us that are in it every day. So when we can create this sort of wheel of gratitude, when they respond to a survivor the next time, they become more entrenched in the work. The burnout gets better. All of these things, and so this is a relationship with your law enforcement agency, and we are constantly thanking them and sharing with them the work that they do because like I said, they’re on the front line. If an officer is ever killed, they are likely killed on a domestic violence call. They go on those calls more than any other call, and let me tell you, they get fried. “She won’t leave, she won’t leave, she won’t leave” they would say. So the more we can support and thank and bolster their work, the better it is for survivors.
Jason: That’s very powerful. I mean, the positive feedback and the encouragement that in fact you are making a difference, that does change behaviors and attitudes and builds relationships. It’s worth its weight in gold, I totally understand that.
Liz: Let me tell you two sticky things that come up that agencies shouldn’t use as reasons not to try this type of program.
So if there’s a 911 response, we respond. So that means we don’t have control over who we are responding to, and those folks don’t have control over us responding either. So for example, a board member or a staff member who has a 911 response to their household now is known to the agency as a client. We built a special code in our database for folks like a board member or a staff person if they’re known to be a client, that we can hid and mask that information. It still comes out in reports, but there are only a handful of us that know because we want to make sure that internally we are protecting people as well.
So that’s just a very minute thing to think about. And then the same thing is with our officer responses, right? So when officers perpetrate domestic violence or say we respond to a public or a famous household, how do we manage that?
That’s just an advertisement really for your PR team, your communications team, to recognize that the breadth of who you are working with shifts, because all of a sudden, the survivor doesn’t have control over whether or not your respond.
Overwhelmingly it’s never an issue, but you do have to think about that aspect.
Jason: So what type of staff do you have involved. Who do you have manning the hotline, who are the dispatchers and call takers, and who are the advocates?
Liz: We’ve gone through a couple iterations of how to staff this. When we first launched, we had a group of staff called PS417 because that’s our code for a Metro domestic violence call. So we had staff separate from the hotline staff, they were physically separate in a different part of the office, and they got dispatched from there.
What that created was this situation of one group feeling like the Top Gun crew over here with the other over there, and there was like a whole issue of we don’t do anything but Metro response calls, and so that wasn’t working. So we actually integrated the PS417 team and the hotline team into one. So when you’re hired, you know what you’re being hired for. But you are in the same room, they’re the same team, they have the same leadership, and that has really streamlined what we were doing.
Really though the idea is that we have enough volunteers that all my staff that are going out on calls are backup. And this is where if you have a university in your community, where can you find these folks, right? And so we have a whole criminal justice internship program, and those folks get trained and go out on calls.
That’s a little bit exhausting because they’re only with us for four months, right? So we train you, and by the time you shadow and you’re out on a call answering independently, that’s like maybe the last two weeks of your program. But it helps fill this need and volunteerism is the way this thing can grow.
I have a couple rural communities in our area that really, really, really want this program. And I’m like, I want to bring it to you, but it’s got to be volunteer responders because your volume’s not enough for me to staff someone because you’re going to have maybe 36 domestic violence calls in six months. That’s not enough for me to put a staff person in your area, but we can train and get and support and have your volunteers run the program. That’s the only way to really sustain and grow the program in a way that funding allows.
We fund this primarily through private funding and through Victims of Crime Act [VOCA] funding, but that’s only going to get so big, right? So volunteers become very, very important, and that’s another reason Beacon is so great because it doesn’t care if you’re staff or not staff. It’s like you load the app on your phone and away you go once you’re trained and ready.
So that volunteerism piece has got to be there.
Jason: So, I’m a paramedic, and I know that our training is standardized and regulated by all sorts of groups. I imagine for what you are doing there wasn’t a textbook that you could pull off the shelf. What does your training consist of and how did that come together?
Liz: Great question. There’s a program in our community called TIPS, which is run through our fire department, but my understanding is that it’s a nationwide program. What TIPS does is they send volunteers to the scenes where trauma has happened. Not domestic violence type of trauma, but like if you had a house fire, or if your uncle passed away in his bed and kids were there, right? Like you get a trauma informed volunteer to come to your home. So first I called on them and they had a great training of how to deliver advocacy inside someone’s home. So we adopted that because you are going into someone’s home. There are times where we are doing this work in hospitals or on street corners, really all over the place, but most of the time we’re in someone’s home. TIPS really talked about that, so we incorporated that in the training and then all of the rest of the training really mirrors what we do on the hotline.
It’s just that, you’re a crisis person who doesn’t have the phone between you anymore. But we have that 24-hour hotline that if you were to get into a situation on a call where you maybe don’t know the answer or you need to help a victim in a way that you don’t know what the solutions are you can call the hotline yourself from the field and that hotline is there to support our team that’s in the field when they need it. Which is a pretty rare thing but it’s there.
The biggest things that we do on scene is deliver information about domestic and sexual violence. We do a DA-LE assessment [Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement], so we help people understand if they’re escalating to homicide and we talk about what safety looks like in our jurisdiction. If you’re arrested for domestic violence, it’s a 12-hour hold, which means if you want to get an emergency protection order, we need to be starting it now because by the time we fill it out, get it faxed to the courts, and a judge gets it on their mobile device and approves it, we’re up against that 12 hour hold for the perpetrator. So we’re doing all that work on scene.
The other thing that we’ve recently added, and I would plug this for everybody, is we talk about strangulation and choking. That’s the biggest red flag indicator that there’s homicide. We know that not every strangulation is a homicide, but we know that every murderer is a strangler, right? So we talk about that purposefully with all of our on-scene response teams because people need to know these things and as advocates, we need to not just be saying, “Has he strangled you?” We need to ask, “Was your airway ever blocked in any way?” Because here’s the thing that I think folks don’t understand in strangulation is that 50% of the time there is no physical signs of strangulation. So that is why we talk about it, because if you’ve been strangled then what we want to be talking about is getting you a strangulation exam because at that point I can do a no witness prosecution, which means a survivor can get safe without having to go through the horrendous court justice system gauntlet. We can prosecute that case without her or him needing to testify.
So that strangulation piece is really critical for folks. So that’s a plug for everybody to get trained and understand strangulation and make sure you’re talking about it in your communities. We also know that 80% of the time police are killed on domestic violence calls it’s a strangler. There’s strangulation in that person’s record. So it’s a massive red flag and we’re just sort of not seeing it talked about enough as a community, so we are raising that bar here in Nevada.
In fact, Colorado, California, and Washington State all just added state legislation that strangulation exams are like sane exams now, no cost to the survivor, they’re provided. And we’ll hopefully be following suit here with a similar law in our next legislative session.
Jason: Wow. So you’ve thrown out a lot of very valuable and informative data. It’s so important to be able to prove that what you’re doing is making an impact. I’m wondering, aside from response times, which we say all the time if you are a crisis response unit, your number one metric is showing you can get there quickly, right? That you are going to be there reliably, consistently, and quickly, and I think you said for you in less than 15 minutes, right?
Liz: Our guarantee with Metro is 20 minutes. There are a couple jurisdictions where it’s at 26 [minutes] and as long as you know it, you can work through it, right.
But what I will share with everyone, every time I go into a captain’s meeting at Metro all the captains are like, “Oh, my guys are telling me it’s 45 minutes, or it’s 120 minutes.” And I respond with the data, here’s every call we went on, he’s the real response time. So every captain hears about the outliers when for a myriad of reasons we don’t get someone there extremely fast, but they don’t hear about the 300 responses that we were less than 10 minutes. So being able to show that data is vital.
Jason: That’s a great point. What other metrics are you collecting to prove or show your impact?
Liz: So homicide is the big one. So we have a relationship with our police force where we get their monthly data on how many calls they go on and how many arrests they make and then how many murders there are. So when I go and speak and somebody says, “Where’s your data from?” I can very easily share with them that my data is from Metro, right. I’m not making anything up, my data is from Metro. So that’s a big one, the homicide one.
The other one that we track is how many restraining orders did we receive or not receive from those clients that went on scene? Because that’s also really critical for everybody to know because that’s when we start to intersect the justice system.
All of this data paints a picture. And really what we’re doing is we’re saying, thank you, law enforcement, this partnership is doing all these great things. We look at repeat calls to households, which is actually the toughest metric to get because it just doesn’t roll off that easily, that’s the one that takes some Excel masterminding.
But the second phase to that is we have all this great data now around this work with Metro and arrests and all these things. Our justice system does not track holistically convictions. So I have yet to be able to create the entire pipeline to sort of say from 911 call to arrest, to arraignment, to conviction. Because I’ll tell you one of the things that burns out officers immensely is not knowing if there will be a conviction, seeing all that horrible stuff in the field and then thinking it’s probably not going to end up in a conviction.
So that’s why we’re pushing all of the data bills in the next legislative session, to say, “How are we going to track this?” As a state whom, by the way, on average is the seventh most dangerous place in the country for women being murdered by men. I think we probably need to have a better data set.
So the data opens a doorway. Now I will say we are fortunate here at SafeNest because I have a business and data analyst background. If you don’t have that skill set on staff, that is okay, don’t feel daunted by it, but figure out one or two things that you want to measure that are going to be critical information and pick those and do it. You don’t have to be as elaborate with your data as we are.
It just happens that I love data and we do some predictive analytics and things like that to understand the trends. But that’s because we’ve chosen to do that work as an agency. That is not a mandate. Homicide rate is the big one, and then response time is what your officers are going to really care about, the repeat calls to household can be a very powerful one.
The other thing for everyone to know is either Ohio State or University of Ohio, one of them did a fantastic research project on the cost of a homicide. The lifetime cost of a homicide was something like $17 million.
Jason: How is that broken down?
Liz: Within the Metro there’s a direct cost. Then you throw in all the court costs, then you throw in the lifetime earnings losses and tax losses for the people who were murdered, and they break this all down in this report which of course feels like this huge number, right? We told our Metro, look this data exists, but let’s just say the cost in our community of a homicide, without all of this sort of extemporaneous stuff they’re putting in there, is $1 million. The cost of a homicide for us is $1 million dollars. Can we get there? Between the DA’s time, the police time, court time, all of these things, and everybody was like, “Yeah, we feel like that number makes sense to us.”
Well, we’ve brought the homicide rate down in our Metro area by seven on average, seven fewer homicides a year in the domestic violence space. And when we do our predictive analysis it’s larger because our homicide rate should have gone up. So that’s $7 million dollars a year that’s not being spent on homicide investigation. So those financial numbers, if you have a CFO or a financial person on staff, give them the project of figuring out the cost of a police response.
Money talks. So when I go in and talk to county commissioners and folks and ask what they think domestic violence is costing our community, they don’t know because no one person is writing one check for this. But when we can then break it down for them and say if we bring down the homicide rate then there would be millions of dollars your community could deploy differently, so partner with me on getting those homicide rates to go down.
So those are some little tips and tricks on how to get working with different folks, but don’t get daunted by the data. Figure out what the key things are for your agency and start small and then just build it. Just slowly build it and once it gains momentum, then do press releases, do the whole social media game, all of that stuff will matter to get traction by talking about the things that you are doing.
Jason: That’s really a lot of rich information and I’m certain a lot of groups listening to this will be learning a lot. We have a corollary to that. We talk about this in opioid overdoses, that the average cost of an ICU stay for an opioid overdose, whether they lived or died, was $95,000. And we have groups out there that are reversing opioid overdoses for about $1.50. And you know, that’s powerful to be able to show that, that’s getting people to pay attention.
Liz: Money talks, unfortunately, but it’s true. I think most folks, government officials and donors, especially in the work that we do, they are used to this sort of daunting sob story about all of these women that are suffering in domestic violence. And that is absolutely true, but we have to remember the folks with the power and the money don’t resonate with impoverished women in violence. There’s a bias of thinking it’s a choice or why doesn’t she just leave. But when we can come to them with an innovative project and talk about dollars and data, we elevate in their mind the ability for there to be solutions that they should be connected to.
Jason: And I would even say they’re trained to be very weary of the sob story, right? Don’t get distracted by emotions, talk about hard facts and numbers instead. So there’s this almost like, defense mechanism to a tug at the heartstrings and putting up an extra barrier when they feel it.
What are your plans for the future for scaling? I know you’ve mentioned rural areas and expanding around Las Vegas, but this is something that sounds like it should frankly be a national program.
Liz: Yes, we were very fortunate that Senator Cortez Masto got reelected recently because she is sponsoring a bill for there to be seed funding for this across the country. It has not worked its way through yet, I’m in contact with her office, we’re hoping early next year, but that would allow the Office of Violence Against Women to have grant funding available for this partnership. And we’ve sort of worked with them to provide the things that everyone will need, like an MOU with the police chief’s signature, right? All those kinds of things to make this successful in different jurisdictions and that should help spread it across the country.
In addition, I’m working with University of Nevada Reno to create an online training and booklet of all of our data so that anybody could pick this up and sort of say, okay, here’s a manual on how to get this going. Because look, we’ve failed forward enough that I would love for other folks to not have to fail forward at quite the rate that we did. So we can share that information out to everybody on how to get a program like this going.
We’ve also done some presentations through the State Department to other countries. Malaysia and Kazakhstan have been the two big ones that are trying to figure out how to implement this program in their communities, which is vastly more complicated given the fact that a place like Kazakhstan has no domestic violence laws, but they do get that it’s an issue. And so how do we work outside of our legal system but in partnership with law enforcement to get survivors safe and to work with abusers.
So there’s I think even globally some great innovative things happening and certainly nationally we’ve got some opportunities to expand this program.
Jason: This sounds like something that the World Health Organization or the Human Rights Commission or Red Cross, this sounds like stuff that they would really like to adopt.
Liz: Yes, and we have what we call a preferred provider network. We have a bunch of members here in Las Vegas, I think we’re up to like 50 members who we’ve trained how to do mobile response. And the reason we do that is because people are not always going to call 911 for a lot of reasons. They’re not always going to call SafeNest, which is totally fine with me. What I want to make sure is that any agency that comes into contact with someone who may be suffering from domestic violence understands the resources. And so what our preferred provider networks are able to do is they can do the daily assessment and they can call our hotline, identify as a preferred provider network, and get that client into shelter without having to go through the full hotline intake and then once they’re in the shelter with us, that preferred provider can continue to do advocacy inside SafeNest’s confidential shelter location.
Let me tell you that the group that has benefited the most from this right now is our transgender justice program, our transgender group, because trangendered folks are just not going to call my hotline and that’s totally fine. The same with our LGBTQ+ folks that come out of a different organization here that we work with, they’re not going to call the hotline. They don’t recognize that it’s a service for them, even though we in no way discriminate against that or any community.
And then churches, so Deacon’s wives and Pastors wives hear a ton of domestic violence stories, because the Church is safe, right. They however do not typically have the framework to continue to figure out what to do. So we can work with our interfaith council and coach them and work with those people who are hearing these stories to have them know what to do for survivors.
This is where we start to make sweeping change for survivors. This is how we change that 4% number. That 4% of women reach out, we’ve got to change that by opening up doors, and getting more people to the resources they need one way or another. And not everyone is going to see our hotline number or see my logo and know that’s a way to get safe. So making sure everybody in your community who has impact, how to get trained on the same assessment tools, and create that network of safety.
Jason: I mean, I’m just thinking about this and it’s like your name of the organization, SafeNest, really embodies everything you’re doing and that is so powerful.
Liz: Yes, I have to thank the University of Nevada Las Vegas that did that naming back in the nineties. They did a whole study, and we changed our name from Temporary Assistance to Domestic Crisis to SafeNest in the nineties because of a great research partnership with our university.
If you’re lucky enough to have a university in your area, it’s so immensely helpful. They really care about what we are doing and the research they can pump out to elevate your voice is really helpful.
Jason: Awesome. Really, just hats off to you and your entire team, such impactful and meaningful work. I always like to ask groups that are trying to start out and follow in your footsteps, what would you recommend? You’ve already said a bunch like starting small and knowing your focus, but what else would you recommend?
Liz: I would recommend buying plane tickets to Las Vegas and we will open up our doors to you. You can come and do ride-alongs with my staff, you can see the nitty gritty, you can hear from the team on the ground not just me the CEO and learn where we struggle or what we are working on of the systems we use. I don’t think there is anything I can say or share that would be more beneficial than coming here and seeing it in motion. Spend a couple days with us and we’re more than happy to host folks and share our systems and what we do.
I’ve learned a lot in my career by just jumping on planes and going to see what Family Justice Center in Tennessee is doing for example. Just jump on a plane, come out here, and we’ll create and program and support your learning and answering any of your questions.
Jason: SafeNest.org is where they can find you. Excellent. Well thank you so much, Liz, I really appreciate this. It’s been awesome and I know our listeners are going to learn so much from it and hopefully we can get it to a bunch of people who otherwise wouldn’t be hearing about it. So thank you for your time!
Liz: Always a pleasure, thanks Jason, I’ll talk to you later.