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CEA Nonprofit Winner: Safe Haven Helps Victims Of Violence

By Cece Nunn, posted May 3, 2024
NONPROFIT | Safe Haven Of Pender Inc. | Tracey Ray, Executive Director | Year Founded: 1994 | Employees: 28 (Photo By Madeline Gray)
Tracey Ray can relate to victims of violence.

Ray, executive director of Safe Haven of Pender Inc., learned the toll intimate partner violence and domestic violence can take firsthand. As a teenager growing up in New Hanover County, she experienced dating violence in the late 1980s.

“I was in high school, and I sought to get a protection order and I was unable to get it because I was not occupying the same home as the abuser, so I wasn’t married to him or cohabitating,” Ray said. “I always knew going forward that something needed to be done about that, and I wanted to be a part of that work.”

Safe Haven of Pender, an organization that Ray has been a part of for 16 years, aims to empower and provide resources to victims of intimate partner and domestic violence. It also focuses on holding abusers accountable and educating the public.

Thirty-five years ago, when Ray was trying to survive abuse, “there was just not a lot of work being done around intimate partner violence, which would have covered teen dating violence.”

Resources were scarce at the time.

According to a history of the organization on its website, a group of volunteers in 1988 who were “concerned with the growing number of reported (and unreported) rapes in the Pender County area, pursued training on how to respond to rape calls and a rape hotline.

Acknowledging this effort, the Pender County Commissioners awarded the group $500 to implement a pager system.

In 1989, due to a lack of dedicated volunteers and the absence of calls, the pager program was canceled. The desire to provide resources for these victims was not diminished, however.”

In 2019, Safe Haven became a domestic violence shelter and services agency. Safe Haven continues to partner with the sexual assault agency to provide shelter beds for victims. Also in 2019, it expanded its shelter and services into Duplin County.

For Ray, becoming part of the team at Safe Haven of Pender “was a huge blessing, more so than I could have ever imagined,” she said.

A few years ago, she said, she served as Gov. Roy Cooper’s appointee to the N.C. Council for Women.

Safe Haven has received funding from that council, and Ray said she wants to continue to “pay that forward and make sure policies are in place, that we are able to serve people and children who are experiencing or impacted by intimate partner violence.”

Last year, her organization served more than 450 individuals but provided many more services because leaving a partner is a complicated issue.

“There’s so many reasons, valid reasons [such as financial hardship], why a person just does not leave, and even when they leave, they might go back,” Ray said. “So even if a person is in our shelter, and we’re providing services for them and they end up going back … if they need services again, we still provide services because we understand that it is extremely difficult for a person to leave and stay gone.”

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