During her time as director, Durrant has seen Safe Harbor’s counseling and advocacy services expand to reach and support more members of the community.

On March 31,2015 we say farewell to our Director of Counseling and Advocacy, Vanessa Durrant. Durrant and her family are leaving Richmond in late spring, as her husband has received offers to complete a postdoctoral position from both the National Institute of Health and Harvard University.

“As I look back to all that I’ve accomplished in the last couple years in managing and overseeing our counseling and advocacy program, I am proud of how the program has grown and how it has made a positive impact for our most vulnerable community members,” Durrant said.

Durrant joined the staff in 2012 and was promoted to Director of Counseling and Advocacy in 2013 when the agency restructured under the leadership of then-executive director Kathleen Demro.

“When Vanessa joined the Safe Harbor team, she brought energy and passion to our work with survivors of violence,” Demro said. “Her vision for improvements to our counseling program made her a natural fit for the Director of Counseling and Advocacy position. She helped launch a thoughtful new approach to how we best support and empower survivors as they seek healing and resiliency.”

Increasing service delivery and standards was one of Durrant’s biggest goals upon taking leadership of the counseling and advocacy program.

The Counseling & Advocacy Team (CAT) includes Safe Harbor's sexual and domestic violence counselors, our court advocate, and student interns.
The Counseling & Advocacy Team (CAT) includes Safe Harbor’s sexual and domestic violence counselors, court advocate and student interns.

“Safe Harbor has always had a strong and positive reputation in the community, and I wanted to make sure that we continued to enhance our service delivery and execute it in a way that included best practices for working with survivors of trauma, such as sexual and domestic violence,” Durrant said.

Along with Safe Harbor’s leadership team members Jodi Leonard, Director of Development and Community Relations, Cheryl Hunt, Director of Safe Houses, and Safe Harbor board member Gail Harris, Vanessa worked to create the agency’s first logic model for both the court advocacy program and the adult and children/youth trauma intervention counseling program.

“This allowed us to step back and envision the overall goal when working with our clients, and to offer trauma-based services that would aim at helping to reduce the traumatic effects of sexual and domestic violence in their lives, while increasing their protective factors and resiliency,” Durrant said. She researched and instituted outcome measurement tools that would help to support direct service staff in working with survivors. “It was important to implement trauma-based assessments and tools that would help us to identify areas where our clients needed healing, as well as ways to measure success in our work with them.”

As director, Durrant also worked to increase program visibility for both the court advocacy and counseling programs, as well as to increase the number of individuals served.

A couple years ago, Durrant started a tradition for all CAT team staff and interns who say goodbye to Safe Harbor. Each team member writes down the qualities of the invididual who is leaving, and Durrant would frame the paper to give them as a going-away gift. Above is the frame the team recently presented to Durrant, in honor of her tradition.
A couple years ago, Durrant started a tradition to say goodbye to outgoing members of CAT team. Each team member writes down the qualities of that individual on a piece of paper, which Durrant would frame and present to them as a going-away gift. Above is the frame the team recently presented to Durrant, in honor of her tradition.

“Sexual and domestic violence is happening every day, and every day there are more child and adult survivors who need our support,” Durrant said:

“In my time at Safe Harbor I have witnessed and worked with individuals, both children and adults, who came to us so broken, vulnerable and traumatized. And I’ve seen those same individuals exit counseling feeling empowered, strong, and resilient. I’ll never forget the change in someone’s eyes. You know that child leaves counseling knowing they are important and that the abuse was not their fault. It’s been my job to model that hope to the rest of our counselors and advocates. With our expertise and support, clients can transform their life, they can establish a new normal, and their stories are so very important.”

Durrant added that she will dearly miss being a part of Safe Harbor’s work, and she hopes the counseling and court advocacy programs will continue to grow, expand and form new partnerships.

“It’s been an honor to work alongside my colleagues and impact change in our communities,” Durrant said. “My time at Safe Harbor will always hold a very special place in my heart.”