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Mother of four finds help at A Safe Place

Ninwith her children Lillian 4 (left) A'asi4 months (front center) Ramy8 (above right) Marcel 7 (right) A Safe Place. |

Nina with her children Lillian, 4, (left) A'asia, 4 months, (front center) Ramya, 8, (above right) and Marcel, 7, (right) at A Safe Place. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Under new Executive Director Pat Davenport, A Safe Place is putting a new emphasis on prevention of domestic violence. A Help Them to Hope recipient agency, A Safe Place is expanding education for both women who have been victims of abuse and their children who have witnessed abuse.

“We want to show what healthy relationships look like,” Davenport said.

Over the past year, A Safe Place has served 2,217 adult victims, 285 child witnesses, and 153 abusers.

A Safe Place

2710 17th St., Zion

(847) 731-7165

Help line: (847) 249-4450

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:07AM

Nina McGee of Zion looks at the beaming, bright-eyed faces of her four children. That’s where she gains the strength to avoid the abusive relationships that, until recently, have kept her from achieving her potential as a woman, a person, a mother.

“All my life, I’ve been in really bad relationships,” said McGee, 32, who fled home more than a year ago. “Violence starts at home, with your family, and spills over into the rest of your life.”

McGee found help through A Safe Place.

She and her son, Marcel, 7, and three daughters, Ramaya, 8, Lillian, 4, and Aasia, 3 months, live in one of the agency’s supportive housing apartments. The three-bedroom unit is safe, secure, and anonymous. It is one of 40 such havens operated by A Safe Place in Zion, which has other offices and homes in Waukegan.

The apartment, which features a washing machine and dryer and other new appliances, was brand new when McGee and her family moved in last year.

“It just feels good to have something of your own,” McGee said. “I feel independent, secure. I don’t have to worry or look over my shoulder.”

McGee, who patiently quells her older kids’ budding squabbles while changing Aasia into a new outfit, received a standing ovation after delivering as speech on her experience during A Safe Place fund-raising gala. That experience, she said, injected her with a new confidence to build a better, stronger, more independent life and to focus on stability for her children.

“People came up to me and told me I was articulate, beautiful and smart,” McGee said. “I felt so important.”

A Safe Place caseworkers have helped McGee understand why she’s made the choices she’s made, how to reflect on her experiences, and change patterns of behaviors.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” McGee said. “It’s up to us to see the mistake and fix it and not go that route again. I don’t want to become dependent on a man again. I don’t want my kids to see abusive behavior, for my kids to think ‘This is how a man treats a woman.’ I want them to feel secure. I want them to get an education so they can be independent.”

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