Roanoke-Based Domestic Violence Program Could Close
Roanoke, VA - A Roanoke-based safe haven for families dealing with domestic violence faces an uncertain future.
"Sabrina's Place" is just one of two in the Commonwealth and is considered one of the premier programs of its type in the country.
Just inside the front door of Sabrina's Place, there is a picture of Roanoker Sabrina Reed: A mother and nurse murdered by her ex-husband while their child sat in a truck outside of her home.
The 2005 murder was part of the catalyst for the program which offers supervised parental visits for families that have endured domestic violence with the court ordering these families to come.
"Unfortunately domestic violence happens every day. It happens to everyone and these families do need a safe place to visit their children where they can be in a safe environment and the children feel comfortable," said Sammi Rader.
When families come to Sabrina's Place, the parents don't see each other. One comes through the front door, the other through the back. Trained mediators monitor the visits. Nearby, armed off duty police officers ensure nothing goes wrong.
"To see the smile on the face of a young child when a police officer comes up because he knows he is somebody that can help me... that makes all the difference in the world," Program Director Annette Lewis said.
Funding prospects are now slim, however. The federal money the program counts on may not be renewed this month, and won't be available in the next round regardless.
State policy has also shifted away from the format for a different, less secure one which has everyone at Sabrina's Place wondering what's next.
"This is the safest place for them. We don't have any idea where we can help them go to get the kind of security they get in this location," Lewis said.
Last year alone, Sabrina's Place served 55 families dealing with significant domestic violence that included sexual violence and child abuse.
For their part, governments around the Roanoke Valley plan to approach the General Assembly with the hopes of changing the policy so the program can continue.
If the effort doesn't work, though, it would likely spell the end of Sabrina's Place.