Local domestic violence shelter gives victims a safe space

Laurel Deppen

The Barren River Area Safe Space, or BRASS, is a shelter in Bowling Green for victims of domestic abuse.

BRASS offers a wide variety of services focused on providing victims of domestic violence with resources to rebuild their lives. Its facility contains almost 30 beds for women and children in crisis.

The programs offered at BRASS extend past just providing a safe place. According to their website, BRASS provides counseling, crisis lines, legal and medical advocacy and financial assistance.

Tori Henninger, executive director of BRASS, said that its programs are meant to put people back on their feet. Their services also include helping victims find jobs and providing childcare.

Henninger said she always enjoyed nonprofit work. Through BRASS, she said she is able to give a voice to people who aren’t able to have a voice for themselves.

“I am a firm advocate and have a very strong belief in equality, in the ability for everyone to rise to their personal best,” she said.

Pam Hurt, BRASS assistant director, has worked for the organization for 20 years. Hurt explained that her work for BRASS includes teaching victims of domestic violence to put themselves first.

“We teach them how to rebuild themselves and make them believe that they are worthy, that they are empowered,” Hurt said.

Hurt explained the importance of victims of domestic violence getting out of abusive situations so they don’t pass it on to their children.

“Domestic violence is ultimately all about the ability and the power to control one person has over the other,” she said.

Hurt emphasized that BRASS exists to help victims take that control back.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is meant to spread knowledge of sexual assault and to teach people how to prevent it. Hurt said domestic violence and sexual assault go hand in hand.

Henninger said that BRASS works to provide the kind of physical and mental help that victims of sexual violence may need.

“Unfortunately, often sexual assaults come within the realm of domestic violence,” she said.

Henninger said that BRASS works closely with Hope Harbor, Bowling Green’s sexual trauma recovery center, to ensure victims get the treatment they need.

Henninger recalled multiple instances of victims coming to the shelter as what she described as a shell of the person they once were.

“You could see who that used to be,” she said. “You could see that glimmer of hope and the opportunity for them to try to change and to be the person that they want to be and not have to live under the power and control of another person.”

Henninger said that in cases like this, the people the victims were when entering the shelter were different than the people they became when they left. She recalled seeing progress in victims by seeing them laugh and look people in the eye again.

“That is by far the most encouraging thing that we do here,” Henninger said. “[We] help people realize that their self-worth and their self-esteem is still there, they just have to build it back.”

Features reporter Laurel Deppen can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]