Hope for Tomorrow: FSC Camp Breaks the Cycle

Camp HOPE America, TN in Memphis offers standard activities like swimming, ziplining, hikes, ropes courses, and silly songs. But it is a curriculum focused on providing campers “a pathway to hope,” that sets this residential camp apart. Small group cabin discussions and awards for outstanding character traits provide children the tools to cope with adversity. Camp HOPE America is a national evidence-based mentoring program focused on victims of domestic violence. The Memphis camp is the only one in Tennessee.

Camp HOPE America defines hope like this: believing in yourself; believing in others; believing in your dreams. University of Memphis researchers who evaluated campers before and after last year’s camp found significant improvements in several key measures including self-esteem, with an average self-esteem score of 4.35 on a scale of one to five.

“Above all else, we want to make sure campers feel safe, encouraged, seen, and appreciated. The feedback from last year’s camp has been great. We hope to be able to make the camp available to even more kids this year,” says Olliette Murry-Drobot, executive director of Family Safety Center. The average camper last year was eight years old.

Investment in the future

Domestic violence usually happens behind closed doors, but it is reflected in public statistics that measure crime rates, student success, and overall quality of life. Research indicates that children witness nearly half of all incidents of domestic violence. One third of those eyewitnesses will grow up to be abusers, and one third will end up in an abusive relationship. And then the cycle begins anew.

“The Family Safety Center brings together multiple agencies that work daily on creative solutions to make Shelby County safer for victims of domestic violence,” says Murry-Drobot. “Given what we know about the generational impact of the tragic cycle of domestic violence, I think Camp HOPE America is one of the most effective programs FSC has in its toolbox.”

It takes 11 positives to undo one negative

Camp HOPE America began in 2003 in San Diego, California. By 2015, the successful program was introduced in five more states. Today 11 states have the camps. In March of 2016, FSC was awarded a planning grant from Verizon to bring Camp HOPE America to Memphis in the summer of 2017. In its first year, the Camp served 26 children ages 7 to ll, whose parents or guardians have received services from FSC.

Research indicates that hopeful children — a child who believes tomorrow will be better than today – are better problem solvers, stronger academically, and able to set goals. Using a comprehensive matrix of “hope and resiliency scores” researchers have proven that campers are more hopeful after their Camp HOPE experience.

University of Memphis partnership

The FSC has partnered with Dr. Kathryn Howell and her research team at the University of Memphis to conduct a thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of Camp HOPE America in Memphis. “Our comprehensive evaluation includes interviews with campers, their caregivers, and camp counselors to determine how participating in Camp HOPE strengthens youth resilience, improves academic engagement and performance, and reduces behavioral and psychosocial difficulties,” says Dr. Howell. “We will also measure whether the experience enhances the parent-child relationship.”


Support Camp HOPE TN 2018

Camp HOPE America, TN 2018 is scheduled for July 22-27 at For the Kingdom Camp and Retreat Center, in Raleigh. Project Director Kelbert Fagan is visiting local high schools and churches to recruit youth volunteers to serve as counsellors and talk about other ways in which the community can support Memphis’ Camp HOPE.

“Most of our campers need some basics to spend a week at an overnight camp so we accept donations ranging from toiletry items and flashlights to close-toed shoes and bathing suits,” says Fagan. “We are also turning to the business community for help. Last year, for example, a local hotel donated linens and towels.”

It costs approximately $350.00 for one camper to attend Camp HOPE. You can sponsor an entire week or just one day for $70.00. Visit familysafetycenter.org/donate and complete the secure online form to donate.

MPD, FSC’s Olliette Murry-Drobot Point Out False Information Being Shared on Social Media



By: Bridget Chapman, WREG

An article bashing the Memphis Police Department for how they treat domestic violence and sex assault victims is making its rounds online.

The article was posted by an organization called “The Raw Story,” which has over a million followers on Facebook.

The article talks about untested rape kits and controversy with the Shelby County DA’s office, but it also has information about domestic violence victims that is causing concern.

The post has gotten about 3,000 likes and over 1,000 shares.

It was posted on Friday with the caption “WTF?!” and the headline, ‘Memphis police put ankle monitor GPS devices on dozens of domestic assault victims.’

There’s also a picture that appears to show a woman wearing an ankle bracelet with it.

“That’s inaccurate information,” said Major J.D. Smith, Memphis Police Department Commander of the domestic violence unit.

He says it’s inaccurate because GPS bracelets are what sex offenders and domestic violence offenders are court-ordered to wear — not victims.

Victims are given the option to have their own GPS devices, but they are not ankle bracelets.

The devices victims are offered are portable and smaller than the size of a phone.

“It’s super small and they can take it with them when they want to,” said Major Smith. “You can even decide to leave it at home, but it’s up to you.”

There are about 50 victims who currently choose to have them in Memphis. It lets them and police know if offenders are violating their conditions of where they’re allowed to go.

“We see it as an additional tool in the toolbox in terms of increasing victims’ safety as well offender accountability,” said Olliette Murry-Drobot, executive director at the Family Safety Center.

Police think it’s a win-win since offenders violate these terms every day, but they worry the article being shared will put fear in victims.

“They have their opinion, but the accuracy of the information is what’s important,” said Major Smith. “Let’s make sure we get the message out clearly.”

He says he hopes more victims will choose to have them but understands the choice is theirs.

The GPS program kicked off in Memphis last July and has resulted in over 160 arrests so far.

The article has since been updated with a note at the bottom acknowledging the devices are optional, portable and don’t have to be physically worn. However, the misleading headline and main picture remain the same.

If you or someone know is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can call the Family Safety Center at 901-222-4400.

Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church Outlines How the Church Should Respond to Domestic Violence



Special thanks to Pastor Turner and the congregation of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church for this special service outlining how the church should respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and for highlighting FSC services.

Educational Event Held After Shelby County Apartments See More Domestic Violence


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The numbers are staggering: Domestic violence assaults are up 11 percent this year in a county already plagued by them.

The Family Safety Center constantly works to bring these numbers down in Shelby County and they’re also partnering with SafeWays to combat the problem.

“It’s always a sense of urgency,” said Olliette Murry-Drobot with the Family Safety Center.

Domestic violence assaults are up by more than a quarter in Shelby County apartment communities compared to last year and make up over a third of all serious criminal offenses in apartments.

“A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of the managers and the owners don’t necessarily know what steps to take or where to start or what’s truly effective,” said Janine Heiner Buchanan, managing director at SafeWays.

Which is why SafeWays and the Family Safety Center are teaming up to teach apartment managers what they can do to help.

“We need their help as well as the community’s help,” said Priscilla Blackmon, housing manager at the Family Safety Center.

Managers came from across the county to attend the free session on Tuesday.

Organizers said it was the first event of its kind and after seeing the response of about 50 attendees, they plan on having more in the future.

Leaders with the Memphis Police Department also talked about components like GPS bracelets and orders of protection.

“We take that piece of paper and we start building a case,” said Police Director Mike Rallings.

The director said it’s important for everyone to understand the realities of domestic abuse.

“A lot of the active shooter incidents started with some type of domestic violence incident,” he said.

Making it more important than ever to know the right resources available and the warning signs in place.

“Folks want to figure out, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ So this is a part of our conversation today and figuring out what our next steps and how we can work together to address the issue,” said Murry-Drobot.

If you or anyone you know is affected by domestic violence, you can call the Family Safety Center at 901-222-4400.

At Tuesday’s session, they also went over the rise in property offenses at apartment complexes.

Olliette Murry-Drobot Discusses Childhood Exposure to Violence with HuffPost

By Eleanor Goldberg

Olliette Murry-Drobot was subjected to domestic abuse before she was even born.

When Murry-Drobot’s mother was pregnant, she endured more frequent beatings from her partner. The violence intensified to the point that Murry-Drobot’s mom didn’t feel her daughter move for days at a time.

Murry-Drobot survived, and witnessed her father terrorize her mother throughout her early childhood, she told HuffPost. Now, she has committed her life to protecting and empowering victims of domestic violence and ensuring that the children, who often suffer long-lasting consequences, also get the support they need.

Murry-Drobot is the executive director of the Memphis-based Family Safety Center, a nonprofit that essentially serves as a one-stop haven for survivors of domestic abuse. Clients get access to a range of resources that help them safely escape their partners and build a new life. That includes gaining access to housing, counseling, emergency shelters and support navigating the civil and criminal justice systems.

In Memphis and Shelby County, the areas the Family Safety Center serves, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, according to Memphis CBS affiliate WREG. Nationally, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience intimate partner violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Multifaceted programs like the Family Safety Center’s have proven results, according to a number of studies. One study conducted by Dr. Kathryn Howell, a psychologist at the University of Memphis, found that clients’ levels of hope increased significantly after working with the Family Safety Center.

A crucial element of the nonprofit’s work is giving the children of abuse survivors a safe and comforting outlet. For example, the center organizes a summer getaway called Camp Hope, part of a network of camps in the U.S. that supports children exposed to domestic violence and other trauma. The free weeklong experience provides 25 kids with therapy, outdoor adventures and craft projects.

Such programs are especially critical in preventing the cycle of violence from continuing. One-third of children exposed to family violence will grow up to become abusers themselves. And one-third will become victims, according to the Family Safety Center.

Children who are exposed to domestic violence also face a number of other risks. They’re susceptible to developing anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and drug and alcohol abuse issues, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Murry-Drobot experienced some of these issues firsthand.

“You grow up looking at the world as a scary place,” Murry-Drobot said, “not feeling like you can have trusting relationships, because the person who loves you can do terrible things to you.”

Murry-Drobot has vivid childhood memories of her father drinking and then proceeding to hurt her mom. She and her mom and younger sister would often temporarily escape in the middle of the night, sometimes to their grandmother’s home. Murry-Drobot was 7 when the three of them fled for the final time. But their problems didn’t stop there.

They lived in public housing and struggled financially. Murry-Drobot’s mom had to trek a long distance to her low-wage job, and most of their money went toward car and gas payments. Murry-Drobot nearly failed the second grade. She often didn’t have enough to eat and the family moved around a lot. She was shy and unsure of herself until college, she told HuffPost.

While domestic violence can affect people in any income bracket, low-income women are particularly vulnerable because their poverty makes escaping that much more challenging. When they consider leaving their relationship, they will often think about the financial tradeoffs and how they’ll feed their children without their partner’s support, for example.

About 75 percent of victims earn less than $20,000 a year, according to Murry-Drobot. She’s seen high levels of impoverished African-American women suffering from domestic abuse.

Even when someone has experienced severe abuse, it’s common for Murry-Drobot and her staff to meet with them several times before the person feels ready to leave their partner and accept the Family Safety Center’s help.

Such was the case with one of the organization’s very first clients. She was a mother of two in her 20s who had been with her husband for 11 years. He was emotionally abusive and had threatened to set her on fire. She worked minimum wage jobs, didn’t have a high school diploma, and initially wasn’t receptive to what the Family Safety Center told her.

She went back to husband, but the organization didn’t give up on her. They continued to reach out and express their concerns that she was in “grave danger,” Murry-Drobot said.

She eventually left her husband and got involved with the Family Safety Center. She earned her GED, bachelor’s degree and now works as an advocate for the organization, supporting other survivors.

Offering a holistic approach and addressing survivors’ various needs is what Murry-Drobot feels gives her clients the best chance at succeeding.

“It’s not enough for us to provide housing and support for 60 days,” Murry-Drobot said. “We have to figure out where she’s going to be in six months or a year. We don’t have the possibility of her feeling like she has to go back to her abuser, or getting involved with another abuser.”

Full HuffPost Article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/domestic-abuse-olliette-murry-drobot_us_59a5bd08e4b063ae34d96f61 

Olliette Murry-Drobot

FSC’s Executive Director, Olliette Murry-Drobot, Honored by Memphis Business Journal

Olliette Murry-Drobot was recently named one of Memphis Business Journal’s 2017 Superwomen in Business. This honor is  presented annually to 25 local women excelling in their fields, and we are so proud of Olliette!

‘Camp Hope’ Gives Children of Domestic Violence, Trauma a Future

FSC’s Community Outreach Specialist, Mia Harvey, speaks with WMCTV about Camp Hope, a summer camp for children impacted by domestic violence.