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Sanctuary keeps women safe

SELMA — In the past year, the Selma and Blackbelt Region Abuse Sanctuary, S.A.B.R.A. Sanctuary, has counseled and relocated more than 400 domestic abuse victims and their children.

People may ask why a woman continues to stay in an abusive relationship, but Nancy Travis, executive director of S.A.B.R.A., believes it is the fault of the aggressor.

“I respond by saying, ‘Well, why does he hit?’” Travis said.

Women tend to stay in an abusive relationship until they have tried to leave it five or six times, Travis said.

Living in the shelter is no cost to its residents. They are provided with food, a place to live, bed, washer and dryer.

“Everything is there for them to take care of themselves,” Travis said. “We try to help them be as self-sufficient as possible.”

Residents are helped with G.E.D. completion, finding a part-time job or assistance in completing a divorce, with legal help free of charge, as well as counseling for domestic violence and sexual assault.

Not only will the Sanctuary help domestic violence victims, but it also works to inform students about bullying, self-esteem, and “good touch versus bad touch,” Travis said. High school students are told how to avoid date rape drugs or drugs in genera, and how to have good dating relationships. Education programming starts at kindergarten and goes into adult education.

“Domestic and sexual violence is not good and can be stopped,” Travis said.

The Sanctuary has cut back on programming and hours lately. None of the employees have had a raise in two years, Travis said.

“Our area especially needs the help because we’re one of the poorest communities in the Black Belt area,” Travis said. “We try to make the most of every dollar we get.”

The United Way funds the program $10,000 for the year for Dallas County. The center also has residents and clients from Perry and Wilcox counties.

Total budget for the Sanctuary is $300,000, which is also supplemented by federal and state grants, as well as local money.

“We are so glad to be part of that campaign,” Travis said. “Every dollar helps.”

The Sanctuary plays a vital role in the community, according to Jeff Cothran, executive director of the United Way for Selma and Dallas County, although he wishes it was not needed in Selma.

“That’s the one agency I wish we didn’t have,” Cothran said. “The fact that we have a domestic violence center means we have a domestic violence problem.”

The shelter is in an undisclosed location in Selma. The main office hotline is available 24 hours a day at 874-8711 or 1-800-650-6522 and accepts collect calls.

The United Way has raised $206,000 of the $350,00 goal for the year.