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The Spring of Tampa Bay Offers Second Chances and Violence Relief

By Kelly Church

Founded as a place of refuge for abused adults and their children, The Spring of Tampa Bay has helped more than 60,000 people in less than 40 years through services that focus on "safety, hope and renewal," according to President and CEO Mindy Murphy. With a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, legal services, kids programs, transitional housing, educational programs and more, The Spring takes an active approach to preventing domestic violence and provide Tampa, FL area residents a safe life.

"The Spring is one of the largest of Florida's 42 Domestic Violence Centers and is the only certified center serving Tampa/Hillsborough County," Murphy says. "In 1986, The Spring became the first domestic violence center in the nation to offer an accredited public school on an emergency shelter campus so resident families would have more options for the safety and emotional support of their children."

The Spring website lists their program philosophy as one that focuses on empowering victims to take control of their lives. With a 24-hour crisis hotline, anyone can get help at any hour of the day. The emergency shelter includes 128 beds for those in danger. When a person comes to the emergency shelter, they are assigned an advocate, someone who can help the individual create a safety plan based on individual needs and available services.

"What keeps one victim safe from harm might get another victim killed, and our particular expertise is in assisting survivors in formulating safety plans that address their particular circumstances," Murphy says. "What we know, from years of research, is survivors will leave a dangerous relationship when they believe they can do so safely, and when they feel they have the resource connections to support them."

Services at The Spring include free legal help provided by Bay Area Legal Services. The Incredible Kids! Program offers on-site daycare, elementary school, after-school services, summer camp and tutoring to ensure that kids of domestic violence can easily transition into healthy lifestyles. Shelter University is a program that offers courses that teach self-sufficiency. Attendees can learn practical topics including computer skills, resume writing, financial literacy and social-emotional intelligence. Additionally, The Spring offers educational services in maintaining healthy relationships at every age.

"Embedded within all these programs and services is the most important service we provide: safety and safety planning," Murphy says. "Whether a survivors chooses to live with us to be immediately safe, or to call our hotline or visit our outreach center, our trained advocates are always having conversations with her about how she can stay safe, and how she might need to adjust her safety planning as her circumstances change or her batterer's behavior changes."

Murphy says one in four women are abused, but men can also be victims. The main motivator is power and control. Abuse isn't kept to the physical; it can include emotional, economic, psychological and sexual. Because of this, Murphy says permanent solutions require wide social changes. The Spring of Tampa Bay views every person that seeks out help as one step further in creating that change.

"A permanent solution requires broad societal change. But ending the violence for one victim at a time, and restoring peace to her and her children, is as simple as supporting domestic violence service providers like The Spring of Tampa Bay," Murphy says.

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