"It's incredible seeing our clients go through the process and see them grow and take back their lives, to get the tools to be where they need to be."
Emma Anderson enthusiastically declares it was Saving Grace that brought her to Bend. Five and a half years ago, she was fresh out of the University of Oregon where she studied psychology and women and gender studies, when she began working for Saving Grace. She was hired as part of the AmeriCorps program and started doing prevention work in local middle and high schools, talking to students about dating violence and what healthy relationships look like.
— Emma Anderson
Since then, she has evolved into a victim advocate and the volunteer program coordinator who oversees close to 90 volunteers. Anderson said she is often working with 10 or more clients at any given time. Saving Grace is a nonprofit that serves survivors of intimate partner violence, as well as victims of sexual assault, human trafficking and even stalking. After the first point of contact, clients are advised of their options, whether it be to obtain a court order or to get the police involved if an alleged crime has taken place.
"Our biggest thing is to help a client get their autonomy back so that they can make decisions for themselves," Anderson says.
Clients' first contact with Saving Grace mostly comes through its hotline (541-389-7021), according to Anderson. Callers reach a live person no matter what time they call, 24/7, and often call just to learn about the services offered by Saving Grace.
"It's incredible seeing our clients go through the process and see them grow and take back their lives, to get the tools to be where they need to be," Anderson says. "We're always here for them, no matter what they decide to do."
Saving Grace has a full time staff of about 28, with offices in Bend, Prineville, Madras and Redmond, and a representative at a health center in La Pine.
"I love my co-workers. It's an amazing group of people who are doing this work, and we're always there for each other. It's always been a passion of mine to be there for other people and to be that listening ear," Anderson says. "It's very satisfying work and it's also very taxing on us because we're working with people who are actively in trauma, so we take that trauma on ourselves."
Anderson points out that all Saving Grace services are completely free and confidential. The great majority of clients are women and children, but a minute percentage of men have also sought out their help. The Saving Grace shelter is strictly for women and children and has room for up to eight women and 14 kids, who can stay for up to 60 days.
Saving Grace has been around for 40 years, since 1977, when a couple of friends were sitting at a kitchen table trying to figure out how to help their friend who'd been abused by her husband, according to Anderson. The group began as COBRA—Central Oregon Battering Rape Alliance. The name changed over 10 years ago, Anderson says, when "a client said her advocate was her saving grace," and the name stuck.
"We're the only agency in Central Oregon that does this kind of work," says Anderson.
In 2016, Saving Grace provided services to 4,950 people, sheltered 240 adults and children, and answered 3,041 hotline calls, according to Anderson.
She recalls working with one survivor for more than two years because it is not always easy to get out of an abusive relationship. "It's hard to see them return to a relationship that's not healthy for them," Anderson says.
Saving Grace receives its funding from a variety of private, state and federal sources, which, she says, could be threatened if the new administration in Washington decides to defund the Violence Against Women Act. Saving Grace's budget and staff have steadily increased over the years, "which is good because there's always a need for this kind of work," Anderson says.