SafePlace has a serious mission — to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence and to work on preventing such violence through education and outreach.
But not all outreach has to be serious. Tonight, the nonprofit is raising awareness and celebrating the grand opening of its new expanded Community Service Center with a street party featuring music by Kathleen Hanna and her band The Julie Ruin.
Hanna was the lead singer and songwriter of the pioneering Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill.
“We struggle to find ways to engage people, because these are such hard issues,” said Kellie Patton, SafePlace’s director of development. “Music is a way that we can talk about these things. Violence thrives in the silence, when people turn away, so if we can bring these issues out in the open in a way that’s less threatening for people, we’re going to do that.”
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The more people know about SafePlace, she said, the more people will be able to use its services.
“The first thing people do is not usually call an advocate,” Patton said. “At this event, people can come and find out who we are, and then in the future if they or their friends need our services, they know we are here.”
Patton sees this event as a good way to reach out to young people in particular, although the music is meant to appeal to all ages, and it should do just that with Hanna plus local bands DBST, The Righteous Mothers, Samba Olywa and Bevy.
The lineup also reflects SafePlace’s importance in the community.
When she lived in Olympia, Hanna was a SafePlace volunteer, and what she learned shaped both her worldview and her music.
“I was a volunteer at SafePlace, where I got the biggest education — more than I got at college,” she said in a 2013 Olympian interview. “Volunteering there was what inspired me to go out on the road and talk about domestic violence and feminism and oppression.”
And Danielle Westbrook, who plays Latin jazz with Bevy and what she describes as “funktronic soul” with DBST, turned to SafePlace for help in 1997, when she was ending a marriage in which she’d been abused.
“I left my daughter’s biological father, who had been abusing me for several years,” she said. “It was really extreme abuse. My daughter was seven months old, and I woke up one day and said, ‘I need to leave.’”
Westbrook, who was then 20 years old, worked with an advocate to get an order of protection.
“It was so scary,” she said. “As a victim, you’re going back and forth between ‘I don’t want to leave him; I don’t want to lose him’ and ‘I have to protect myself; I have to protect my child.’ I was all over the place, and the advocate was very grounding. She helped me think clearly throughout the process.”
SafePlace helped her end a long pattern of violence in her family, she said.
“My mother was abused by her father, and we had domestic violence issues in my family,” she said. “My daughter’s life started out with her father abusing me.
“I think I’ve effectively broken that cycle with her.”
SafePlace also helps survivors find housing, provides services targeted to the Asian and Latino communities, educates people about consent and healthy relationships and runs a shelter for women and children. (The shelter is not located at the community center.)
The new center, where SafePlace moved in March, is allowing the organization to expand its outreach programs.
“We need to be able to address these issues in different ways, and being able to expand our community education and prevention work is huge,” she said. “We want to be able to catch things before they get to a critical level.”
SAFEPLACE COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTER GRAND OPENING
When: 5 p.m. Friday (July 24).
Where: SafePlace Community Service Center, 521 Legion Way SE, Olympia.
More information: 360-786-8754, ext. 201, or safeplaceolympia.org.
5 p.m.: Bevy.
6 p.m.: Ribbon cutting, followed by tours of the building until 8 p.m.
6:30 p.m.: Samba Olywa.
6:45 p.m.: The Righteous Mothers.
8 p.m.: DBST.
9:30 p.m.: The Julie Ruin.