Creating safe haven is priority for coordinator _lowres

Vaughn-Massucco

Jil Vaughn-Massucco’s ambitions are not small.

She sees her mission in life as empowering people, particularly women and youth, and she isn’t willing to stop until she’s reached everyone living through domestic violence, she said.

She coordinates the Family Safe Haven program, funded by a grant from the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation, through Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge.

Among the many services, the program provides supervised visitation and safe exchange of minor children for families in crisis, particularly when the noncustodial parent has been referred to Family Service through the court system. The program offers a controlled environment overseen by a trained counselor for family visits and a neutral ground for exchanges in situations where parents are in conflict.

It’s a job she got before anyone knew she had been through a violent relationship herself.

For that reason, among others, she said, she doesn’t judge the victims of domestic violence, many of whom go through years of abuse before getting out, or the perpetrators of violence.

They are often following a pattern of violence they saw, she said, and a neutral approach can work to show a better path.

Safe Haven also offers a 26-week counseling program for perpetrators of violence, coupled with education, awareness, coping and anger management skills and support to assist in preventing recidivism.

Clients of Family Safe Haven may request individual therapy, anger management classes, counseling or parenting classes.

“Anger management classes are offered to the general public, to children and also anyone with domestic violence issues ... and are truly beneficial to all who attend,” she said.

Vaughn-Massucco has seen just about everything — those who are unwilling to change and those who turn their ideas of relationships around completely.

“It’s all about how badly our clients want to improve themselves. My goal is to be that beacon of light for all impacted by domestic violence. We want our families to know there’s a safe, healthy parent/child environment waiting for them here,” she said.

The program also offers emergency assistance, transportation and vouchers to help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet.

“All they have to do is call,” she said.

In addition to intervention, the program also offers individual therapy for domestic violence, age-appropriate group therapy, counseling and education for victims and children and education, advocacy, crisis intervention and referrals for the LGBT community, a group that is often underserved.

Because domestic violence situations are about control and power, she said, she recognizes that it may take many tries to ultimately get out, that’s why she encourages people to call, regardless of where they are in the process.

“If they need immediate help, if they need ongoing help, if they need help to make a plan for safe escape, we can do that,” she said.

The program accepts referrals from the court system, she said, or patrons may call themselves for any of their services, including supervised visitation or domestic violence services.

For information, call Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 924-0123 or Massucco at (225) 907-3949 or jmassucco@fsgbr.org.