In 2001, Alice’s Place in Winslow opened, providing services for those facing domestic and sexual violence. It was founded by the late Dr. Kenneth Mackey Ogilvie, a local OB/GYN, who named it to honor his grandmother, Alice Hurley Mackey, a Choctaw woman who escaped domestic violence. She went on to become a writer and enjoyed a circle of friends that included prominent historians and artists.
“Her story exemplifies what we want to do,” said Theresa Warren, executive director of the shelter. “First, get people out of a crisis. But that’s not enough; that just stabilizes the situation. Where do you go from there? Our job is to empower the individuals we work with.”
During 2021, Alice’s Place provided 2,800 nights of safety for 41 adults and 31 children in its two shelters. They fielded 425 calls to their 24/7 hotline, ranging from people asking if what they were experiencing was domestic violence to urgent requests to get them out of their home immediately.
The staff of 11 also spent more than 2,000 hours in activities that help their clients rebuild their lives, including case management, community outreach, victim advocacy, lay legal help and transportation. United Way of Northern Arizona provides grants to the organization specifically to help the group provide services to children.
Alice’s Place stresses having a safe, respectful and non-judgmental environment for its clients, understanding that there is still a stigma attached to being in an abusive relationship.
“I have conversations about this often,” Warren said. “People who can’t imagine being in this situation or who can’t understand why a victim of domestic violence doesn’t leave. But you don’t walk into a relationship knowing someone is an abuser. It’s usually insidious, like a cancer.”
As part of this philosophy, Alice’s Place offers “trauma-informed care,” where the staff is not trying to “solve” their clients’ situation, but collaborate with them as they move forward, offering options, suggestions and resources.
“The idea behind it is that just because we are advocates and have been trained in this area doesn’t make us the expert on your life,” Warren said. “Our participants are the experts and whatever their choices, we have to honor that.”
Sometimes that means assisting a person who plans to go back to their abuser. According to Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an abused woman will leave a relationship up to seven times before she leaves for good.
In those cases, Alice’s Place will help their client come up with a safety plan, with practical, if somewhat painful, advice. Have a bag packed, in case you need to leave quickly. Stash vital documents, an extra set of car keys and some cash in a place your partner doesn’t know about. If you see warning flags, don’t put yourself in a position where there’s only one exit (a bathroom) or easy access to weapons (the kitchen).
“We’ve even talked about having an emergency contact and code words if you think you’re in danger,” Warren said. “So if I call you and say ‘let’s get tacos,’ that really means call 911.”
Warren said it can be heartbreaking to make these plans with clients, but it’s absolutely necessary not only for their safety, but to make sure that when they are ready to leave, they will feel comfortable going back to Alice’s Place for help.
As Program Manager Tiffany Brooks put it, “The most important thing is for people to know we are here to help when people are ready. Our hotline is 24/7 and it’s never too late to call.”
The Alice’s Place hotline is (928) 289-3003 or toll-free at (888) 531-7233.