Earlier this week, the Thrill had the privilege of speaking to Matt Hellman, executive director for New Directions, the domestic abuse shelter of Knox County (and husband of Housing and ResLife director Jill Engel-Hellman). Our discussion with Matt is featured in honor of Take Back the Night Week, in order to shed light on resources for survivors of assault and abuse in and around Knox County.
Can you explain the mission of New Directions, and give a short overview of what you do?
- The mission of New Directions is to work with the Knox County community to promote healthy and loving relationships. New Directions offers safe housing to persons escaping domestic violence, a 24-hour hotline, legal advocacy, sexual assault services and community education. More information is available at newdirectionsshelter.org. The hotline number is (740) 397-4357.
How long have you served as director of New Directions?
- New Directions’ first and only executive director, Mary Hendrickson, passed away unexpectedly on June 7, 2014. I was hired by New Directions’ Board of Directors and started six weeks ago on August 19th.
What drew you to work with survivors of domestic violence?
- I was drawn to the opportunity to lead an organization that is well-respected in the community, is staffed by hard-working and dedicated employees, and has been supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault for over thirty years.
How can we use highly news-covered instances of abuse, like NFL player Ray Rice’s domestic-abuse case , to open up a broader conversation about this issue?
- The recent highly-publicized cases of domestic abuse, while helpful to draw increased attention to the issue, somewhat obscure the realty that it is often a hidden and unreported crime. These national cases can serve as discussion starters, but it is important to remember that the conversations about domestic abuse must continue even after it is not a front-page news story.
What can students at Kenyon do to get involved with New Directions and combat domestic violence, on our campus and throughout the Knox County community?
- New Directions is exploring ways to enhance our partnership with Kenyon, including working with the groups on campus that address the issues of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, and participating in Take Back the Night activities such as the carnival. Bystander intervention and men’s groups are two areas of specific focus. New Directions also welcomes student interns who want to help educate Knox County students about healthy relationships, as well as gain experience working specifically on the issue of domestic violence in the surrounding community.