Safe Place provides a coordinated, multidisciplinary (MDT) response to reports of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, adult sexual crimes, and witness interviews for relevant cases. Safe Place’ primary focus is to ensure MDT members working these cases are well-trained in areas trauma, child development, interviewing and investigation techniques and victim advocacy. Safe Place oversees and tracks all cases from inception to prosecution and sentencing. The mission of Windham County Safe Place and the Southeastern Unit for Special Investigations (SUSI) is to facilitate an integrated, multidisciplinary response to victims of child physical and sexual abuse and victims of adult sexual assault that reduces trauma, promotes prevention and advocacy, and supports healing for all in our community affected by these offenses. The operations of SUSI promote cooperative efforts between municipalities, police agencies, prosecutor's office, the medical community, child protection services, and victim advocacy groups. Safe Place emphasizes prevention through education and training. The purpose of these protocols is to establish consistency, accountability and collaboration among professionals. Safe Place and MDT members strive to conduct quality investigations to provide evidence to determine if prosecution is appropriate, to reduce stress and trauma to the victim, and protect the victim and community. Both Safe Place and the SIU follow these protocols for cases that have met criteria for acceptance and those that have not but require SIU involvement.
Safe Place Staff
Samantha Prince Executive Director and Dedicated Interviewer Michelle Meima Victim Advocate and Case Coordinator Savannah D'Agostino Marketing and Community Outreach Liaison
Our Safe Place Interviewer is responsible for providing legally sound interviews to children and adults upon the request of an investigative agency that is part of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). Sam has conducted hundreds of interviews, provided testimony, and engaged in a plethora of scrupulous interview trainings. Interviewing is Sam's contribution to the MDT. She is able to speak with each person, child or adult, in way that is supportive, trauma-informed and victim-centered. Sam is passionate and dedicated to supporting the Safe Place mission with each interview. All interviews are to the participants pace and comfort. The only intention of any given interview is to learn what someone is able to share about their lived experiences.
Sam is also the executive director of Safe Place and is responsible for the day-to-day operations including financials (grants, fundraising, accounting, etc.), writing policies, supervising staff and interns, and more.
Our Safe Place in-house victims advocate meets with every family, caregiver, or adult that attends Safe Place for an interview. She is able to provide an assessment of needs and make appropriate and timely referrals. Michelle continues contact with caregivers or adults after their interview, to ensure their voices are heard during team meetings. Michelle is able to assist with referrals, advocate to the team on behalf of the client, and more. She also attends girls group every other Tuesday.
Michelle is also responsible for much of the administrative work at Safe Place, including case data tracking, filing, and more. She coordinates the services for each case in an effort to ensure needs are met effectively while reducing stress whenever possible.
Local Law Enforcement Agencies Any time someone has endured what could potentially be considered a crime of sexual or physical violence, a local law enforcement officer will be assigned to investigate the allegations, collect verbal statements/interviews, physical evidence, and more. Detectives typically defer the victim interview to the Safe Place interviewer whenever possible, on-site or an alternate appropriate location if needed. All detectives receive a variety of trainings through their onboarding process to include: SIU orientation, review of the Safe Place Manual, basic forensic interviewing, other interview modalities, sexual investigation training, and more. SIU detectives also provide assistance to each other, to foster learning and support the Safe Place model.
Brattleboro Police Vermont State PoliceDover PoliceWilmington Police Det. Lt. Jeremy Evans Det. Lt. Mike Studin Det. Sgt. Rebecca Morris Det. Sasha Kondraski Det. Sgt. Greg Eaton Det. Sgt. Dan Hall Det. Sgt. Joshua Lynde Det. Jason Lengfellner Bellows Falls PoliceWindham County Sheriffs Det. Colby Kerylow Det. Sgt. Jesse Robson No Officer Assigned Det. Sgt. Mario Checchi Det. Tyler Noyes Det. Kelsey Knapp
Department for Children and Families (DCF) Although our law enforcement team members are spread throughout Windham County, our local DCF office covers all of the cases of child abuse or neglect that are reported in Windham County. If an allegation of physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse is reported, DCF may refer the case to the SIU and to the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction. If a case needs to be investigated by both law enforcement and DCF, both agencies will work together throughout the case to ensure efforts are not duplicated and to reduce stress and trauma to families. DCF staff receive a variety of applicable trainings to work these types of cases including basic forensic interviewing, child abuse/maltreatment, sexual exploitation and other related trainings.
Current investigators include: Erika Barrett, JT Carpenter, Tammy Mellish + Yeshi Salsedo. Investigators are supervised by Gene Wrinn.
Forensic Interviews All interviews are legally sound, trauma-informed, and victim-centered. Interviews occur at Safe Place whenever possible, with consent from caregivers for children. Safe Place interviewer and SIU investigators predominantly use the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC) forensic interview model. This model is an internationally recognized, research-informed approach that allows interviewers to conduct competent, legally-sound interviews of children. This model emphasizes a flexible-thinking and decision-making approach throughout the interview. Each component of the model is based on current and developing peer-reviewed research. Since Safe Place also interviews adults, the in-house interviewer and investigators have engaged in additional interview trainings as well. It is important to note that any time an interview occurs at Safe Place, the assigned investigators are in the observation room where they can see and hear the interview as it is happening. If they have questions for the participant, the interviewer will collect those questions and bring them back so the interview remains one-on-one. Interviews are recorded and copies are provided to the respective agencies that have requested the interview. Safe Place deletes the interviews after dispersing them and does not store any confidential or investigative materials onsite. If the Safe Place interviewer is not available, detectives and/or DCF staff are trained and capable of providing interviews in a similar structure.
Mental Health Anne Richards is an independent licensed Family Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner that is nationally accredited in trauma informed cognitive behavioral therapy. She actively serves children that have endured sexual trauma as well as other concerns. She is able to incorporate work with caregivers as needed. Safe Place predominantly makes referrals to Anne, as she meets the criteria for our MDT standards. Safe Place is consistently seeking additional providers that meet these standards as well. The need for quality mental health care that is trauma-informed grows greater each day. In 2021, Safe Place launched a therapy group for girls (12-17) and caregivers. Each group is facilitated by a local licensed clinician. Although the clinicians are not formally part of the MDT, the groups have become an integral part of Safe Place efforts to meet the needs of our clients and the community.
Forensic Medical Exams Safe Places collaborates with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's (BMH) four specially trained Sexual Abuse Nurse Exam (SANE) providers as well as the dedicated Child Advocacy + Prevention Program (CAPP) at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Both programs have staff that are specifically trained in areas of maltreatment and trauma-informed work. The staff at BMH and CAPP work diligently to ensure that each adult and child receives an exam that is supportive and understanding of their needs. All exams are based on consent and informational. Safe Place and other MDT members collaborate with these programs to share relevant information as needed to avoid duplication of efforts and to reduce stress and trauma through the process.
Windham County States Attorneys Office (WCSA) Safe Place and other MDT members work alongside the WCSA Office to understand perspectives and insights into the prosecution process. WCSA Office staff attend case review meetings each month for several reasons: to receive and provide updates on ongoing investigations and cases submitted for review, to supply the team with deeper understanding of the intracacies of the legal proves, to provide necessary information from victim perspective and needs and to ensure that information from meetings is passed to other members of the WCSA Office if they are involved in particular cases.
Victim Advocacy Safe Place employs an in-house advocate that performs different responsibilities than the WCSA advocate. At Safe Place, clients can expect to meet with the advocate at the time of the interview. Our advocate collects necessary demographic information and consent forms as well as a general assessment of client needs. If there are any areas in which an adult, child, or family find themselves needing assistance, Safe Place advocate is able to provide a direct referral. The advocate may help to complete or submit the referral as well. When transportation or financial needs arise, the advocate can help navigate available services and access funds. Our advocate provides an overview of information about the investigative and interview process as well. Safe Place is responsible for maintaining contact after the interview, to continue staying involved in the process alongside the family to be able to advocate on their behalf to the MDT and provide continuous support. If a case moves forward in to prosecution, the Safe Place advocate is able to meet with the WCSA advocate to share the clients journey so far and to apprise them of any ongoing needs or barriers. The WCSA will continue this advocacy and informational process with the client, ensuring clients are part of their decision making process and have a full understanding of what's to come and what may be needed from them. The WCSA advocates work to empower clients through the remainder of their process.
SIU members receive trainings in many of the following content areas: Human Trafficking Child Sexual Exploitation Child Sexual Abuse Materials Cultural Competency Peer Review NCAC Basic Forensic Interview Sexual Violence Physical Violence Sexual Offenders Interview Skills + Techniques Trauma-Informed Approach Victim-Centered Approach
Each year, our MDT signs a memorandum of understanding to collaborate, follow the SIU model, and to fulfill the responsibilities of their discipline. To view our MOU, please click here.
Board of Directors
Chair: Richard Werner, Dover Police Department Vice-Chair:Tracy Kelly-Shriver, Windham County State's Attorney Treasurer: Mark Anderson, Windham County Sheriff Secretary: Eric Albright, Vermont State Police Member: Jeremy Evans, Det. Lt., Brattleboro Police Dept. Member: Lisa Bruce, District Director, Dept. for Children & Families Member: Lauren Harkawik Member: Erik Rosenbauer
Safe Place is consistently recruiting new members to join our policy board of directors! Email us if you're interested in joining!