Oasis Grows Under New Leadership
Oasis Women’s Shelter has been serving Owensboro and its six surrounding counties for 38 years, but with Executive Director Andrea Robinson at the helm, the domestic violence nonprofit has expanded services to include more than just women.
In late 2019, the shelter housed it’s first male client, who utilized a dedicated room in the shelter that can hold up to four males, or one male with dependent children.
“We have always offered services to men,” Robinson said. “Those services looked different before because of the stigma of males as perpetrators.”
Robinson said it was important for Oasis to be more inclusive of men as victims of domestic violence, regardless of sexual orientation. According to Robinson, Oasis received 97 calls from men, and provided more than 150 services to men last year.
Before creating the dedicated space for male clients, Robinson said the nonprofit would put men in hotel rooms.
“That just wasn’t the same level of services our female clients received,” she said. “We couldn’t guarantee their safety and security like we could if they were in shelter.”
Robinson said that battered women have a natural fear of men because of their trauma, but believes that the controlled, healthy interaction with men at the shelter is a positive change.
Additionally, Oasis has added a full-time Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor.
“This position helps us address clients’ trauma related to domestic violence, but also their overall mental health,” Robinson said. “We get to peel back those layers of the onion.”
A grant from the Women’s Guild of Owensboro recently provided the nonprofit a small fitness center, providing exercise equipment to shelter residents, although COVID-19 restrictions have delayed installation.
Robinson came to Oasis in January 2019. Originally from Denver, she has a background in criminology and worked as a pre-trial investigator for the Denver Department of Safety. Robinson said that while supporting the battered by providing shelter and programming is Oasis’ focus, it is equally important to hold the offenders responsible.
That is why Oasis has worked with County Attorney Claud Porter and Owensboro Police Department to implement a lethality assessment, which measures risk of abuse. The screening consists of 13 questions, including whether the abuser has used a weapon to threaten the victim or threatened to kill the victim. Enough affirmative answers means that Owensboro Police Department refers the victim to Oasis.
Robinson said that since the lethality assessment’s implementation in early
Oasis has received 25 referrals per month.
Although providing shelter at their 65-bed facility and variety of outreach services to victims of domestic abuse is positive, Robinson is encouraging the community to think about the bigger picture.
“I want to implement evidence-based practices, but it’s an uphill battle,” she said. “Judges, law enforcement and city officials are supportive, though.”
Robinson hopes that by identifying barriers to support, such as substance abuse, living in rural areas with limited cell service, weapon possession and children, officials can identify risk. “This will tell us how easy it is for victims to get out of his/her situation,” she said.
And if their progress under Robinson is any indication thus far, Oasis is well on its way to bringing those barriers down.