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Domestic-Violence Awareness is Focus of Clayton Brunch

Safe Connections works to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault and will host an event for women Saturday at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis.

A St. Louis organization's Saturday brunch will be emceed by resident and aims to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.

"What we want to do with this event is start and affirm conversations about domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence," said Susan Kidder, executive director of Safe Connections. "Because violence will not end unless we give it a voice and talk about it."

Three social work students at Washington University founded the Women's Self-Help Center in 1976. They opened a crisis hotline by setting up a telephone in an apartment. Over the years the organization became Safe Connections, the oldest organization of its kind in the St. Louis area. The gender-neutral name is intended to highlight the need to include both men and women in ending abuse.

Brunch aims to educate and inspire women

Safe Connections will host its fifth annual Together! Engaging Women/Empowering Girls Brunch from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at . About 400 women ages 10 and up are expected to attend, Kidder said. The following women will speak as part of a panel discussion about the challenges they have faced and the successes they've had:

  • Dr. Shanti Parikh, the first African American woman to complete the tenure track in Washington University's School of Arts and Sciences
  • Susan Montee, candidate for Missouri lieutenant governor
  • Taran Hensley, president and co-owner of Mom's Originals Gourmet Pretzels

Kalish, a social entrepreneur, will emcee the event. Former Saint Louis University women's basketball coach Shimmy Gray-Miller is the donation drive leader.

Tickets are $50 for adults and $30 for attendees ages 25 and younger. While new signups will be allowed on the day of the event, RSVPs are requested and may be made by calling Allison McDonald at 314-646-7500 and then dialing extension 122. Those who plan to attend may also email allison@safeconnections.org.

Group offers 24-hour hotline, educational programming

The nonprofit Safe Connections is a member of the United Way and employs 30 people. It receives funding from events such as the brunch, along with private and corporate foundations, government contracts and individual donors.

All of the organization's services are free, prevention education manager Koree Claxton. A real person staffs its 24-hour hotline at all times, and victims of abuse or concerned family and friends can call to get advice about how to address the problem.

The group also offers three educational programs. Project HART teaches middle school and high school students about healthy dating—in person and online—sexual harassment, family violence and more. Guys Group, a program that runs from eight to 12 weeks, provides a safe space for boys to talk about respecting women and identifying positive male role models. Safe Connections on Campus coordinates students on college campuses to organize events and spread the word about ending domestic violence and sexual assault.

Those services are important in light of national statistics, said Kidder, the group's director. One in five women, for example, will be the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. And one out of four women on college campuses will be the victim of sexual violence.

"Domestic and sexual violence knows no ZIP code," Kidder said.

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