Thursday, July 19, 2012

Safe Homes, Part II: What makes a "safe house" safe?

Every pro football team has a "book" that details all the plays they use.  The more they can keep their playbook a secret, the better the chance they have of keeping other teams confused... and putting themselves in a better position to win.     

You can imagine the surprise, then, when an ESPN article on June 9 reported that a Denver Broncos linebacker tweeted some pictures of the Broncos' defensive playbook.  Now their strategies were out there for all the world to see, including, of course, opposing teams.  It was universally declared to be "not so smart". 

I'm not going to reveal any details here of our "defensive playbook" that would help a trafficker find us; but as a follow up to my last blog, "Why Does A Home For Trafficking Survivors Need To Be Safe?", I want to paint with broad strokes a picture of a few of the things we're doing to make our "safe house" safe.     

We reveal the location of the house to as few people as possible
In order to provide a safe place for healing, we need to do everything possible to keep the location hidden.  We only share the address with the very small number of people who truly need to know.  By doing this, we minimize the possibility that someone will unintentionally "slip" and leak information that could compromise the location.  Along with that, we train the people who DO know the location how to speak about Amirah with non-revealing language, and require that they sign an agreement that they will never share the address or post pictures of the house.  

We build a strong partnership with the local police
We've all heard enough stories of "bad cops" to know this is something we have to watch out for; we need to work with law enforcement officers we KNOW we can trust. We are SO thankful that our local police chief is a trustworthy, high-character guy and is incredibly supportive of what we're doing.  A detective is working with us to finalize the details of our partnership:  how we will talk with the police about our residents and potential risks, how they speak about us within the department, the types of surveillance and emergency response they will provide, etc.

We require medical and mental health clearance
Another step we take is to assess the mental and physical health of each woman BEFORE she comes into the home.  If she has physical injuries, she may first need some specialized medical care.  If she struggles with addictions or violent tendencies or has a communicable disease, that could be a safety risk for those already in the home, so she may first need some off-site help.  Pre-admittance assessments are done by medical and mental health professionals, who then either recommend further care or give clearance for her to come into the home. 

Our safety and security plan has dozens of practical steps like this.  Giving each the attention it needs is crucial to the safety and success of our home. 

What else would you do to make a safe home safe? 

Bob Atherton is Amirah's Executive Director.... and, at the moment, a big fan of air conditioners.  

To learn more about Amirah, or to support our work, please visit .

Amirah, Inc.
PO Box 760867
Melrose, MA 02176


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