Independence House director earns state recognition
February 25, 2016
Cape Cod Times By Cynthia McCormick
HYANNIS — Working with domestic abuse survivors in college fired Lysetta Hurge-Putnam with a passion to end violence against women that continues to inspire her decades later. “I found my calling because I really started to learn about domestic violence,” said Hurge-Putnam, 54.
“I was furious about what I was seeing. I felt like this was something important.” Hurge-Putnam, who will mark 17 years as executive director of Independence House on March 1, will receive a leadership award from the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance and the Victim and Witness Assistance Board at the Statehouse on April 13. Hurge-Putnam also has been named president-elect of the board of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition that promotes human rights and social justice.
“She is well respected by her peers as someone who is an innovative, compassionate and dedicated leader,” Jane Doe Inc. Executive Director Debra J. Robbin said in a statement released through a spokeswoman.
Independence House provides counseling, hot-line assistance and court advocacy for 5,000 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault every year, Hurge-Putnam said.
She said the nonprofit organization also serves thousands of other people through education and other programs, such as the Mentors in Violence Prevention program at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, Falmouth High School, Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich and Barnstable High School.
“It makes more sense if we can find a way to stop sexual or domestic violence,” Hurge-Putnam said.
She said people today have a better understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, and there are more services for survivors than when she volunteered at a shelter in college.
“It’s become recognized as a problem and not just an issue between two people,” said Hurge-Putnam, who has a master's degree in social work. People don’t say couples “need to work it out” when abuse occurs or think it can’t happen in their neighborhood, she said. If anything, Hurge-Putnam's dedication to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault has expanded, to include male survivors as well as females, especially with increased recognition of same-sex couples.
Men “are victims also,” Hurge-Putnam said. “It’s still underreported.”
She said Independence House has received training from The Network/La Red to learn how to identify the victim in need of services in gay and transgender relationships. Independence House also works with the White Ribbon Day campaign to encourage men and boys to speak out against domestic violence.
“Lysetta is a fantastic person who is strong and determined and committed to helping all people in need,” Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos, a member of the Independence House board of directors, said in an email. He will be one of the guest speakers at the White Ribbon Day on March 3 at the Irish Village in South Yarmouth.
Hurge-Putnam is receiving the Gerard D. Downing Leadership Award from the victim assistance organizations for leading the way to advance the rights of crime victims.
The mother of a 19-year-old daughter, Hurge-Putnam said she hopes when future generations read about domestic violence they’ll say, “Wow, that’s crazy. What was that?”
— Follow Cynthia McCormick on Twitter: @Cmccormickcct. http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20160219/NEWS/160219387