Independence House, Inc.

FY20 Annual Report



Independence House marks 41 years of service to our community on behalf of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Independence House Mission
To help all domestic violence and sexual assault victims, survivors and children by creating opportunities for safety and empowerment through crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling, referral, outreach, prevention and education.

Independence House Vision
An engaged community that actively prevents sexual and domestic violence.

Our Guiding Principle
“Centering the Last Girl”- This principle ensures access to services and support for survivors
who are most oppressed and marginalized.

Letter from the Executive Director

October, 2020

Lysetta Hurge-Putnam, Executive Director. Photo credit: Kim Rodriguez

Dear Allies, Friends and Supporters

“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.” 
…Langston Hughes

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of Survivors of domestic and sexual violence and for being part of the movement to prevent and end domestic and sexual violence in partnership with us at Independence House.

As I write this letter, the Coronavirus pandemic remains an unrelenting fact of life, with no predictable end in sight. Like the survivors we serve, all of us are called to dig deep into our reservoirs of coping to build our own resilience, with the hope of emerging from this time with new information about ourselves and the needs of those we serve.

We extend deep sympathy to all who have lost loved ones and acquaintances to COVID-19 and hold in solidarity the communities that are experiencing the most severe impact-People of color and traditionally marginalized communities.

Through it all, we have been a consistent and stable resource for survivors of domestic and sexual violence who rely on us to be there for them during their time of greatest need, in spite of the pandemic. As you review this annual report you will be confident that our mission is alive and especially relevant in the lives of survivors during COVID-19 and of course after. You can rest assured that your financial support has been effectively and responsibly used in the service of survivors.

The pandemic, without a doubt looms large, but prior to the pandemic, Independence House marked a milestone of 40 years of service to domestic and sexual violence survivors and our community at large. You came out to mark this milestone at our 40th anniversary commemoration, and we are thankful for your presence and participation at that event and throughout all of last year. We achieved this milestone with your consistent and enthusiastic engagement and unwavering affirmation to be part of the long term solution to the deeply entrenched problems of sexual and domestic violence.

The outstanding dedicated staff at all levels of our organization have done an excellent job of supporting survivors during this pandemic. We quickly adapted to remote work practices to help survivors meet their goals. Our use of a secure platforms and implementation of practices to enhance survivors and staff safety along with attentiveness to the individual safety needs and vulnerabilities of specific communities provide us with confidence that no survivor is left behind.

We completed our second year of data driven prevention and education activities which are concentrated on preventing sexual violence within the community of people living with disabilities. In partnership with CORD we have continued to build capacity to employ community level prevention strategies focused on Increasing Protective environments for this most vulnerable community.

Our Emergency domestic violence shelter has operated without interruption providing a safe haven, with high quality staff support and care for survivors forced from home because of violence.

Thank you for the difference you have made in helping Independence House help survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence achieve safety, healing and empowerment especially now, as survivors face additional risks to their health, safety and well-being. Chief among these risks are increased exposure and experiences of abuse and violence, financial devastation, job loss and unemployment. These risks are particularly intensified for people of color and people who are immigrants.

In the summer and fall of 2019 Independence House embarked on our triennial strategic planning process. This process created a space for the organization to reflect on our achievements, our growth and our vulnerabilities, (SWOT analysis), as well as explore, reaffirm and update our mission, vision and values.

The strategic plan is intended to guide us in directing our resources where they most effectively prevent sexual and domestic violence and address the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence, particularly survivors who are most oppressed and marginalized.

The strategic plan has been substantively informed by feedback gathered from staff at all levels of I.H; board members; volunteers, local community organizations including organizations representing immigrants, marginalized and communities of color, law enforcement prosecution, advocacy, children and teen serving and governmental. I extend heartfelt thanks to all our community partners and friends who took time to participate in interviews and surveys.

At the end of the process, we identified 4 key areas of focus for I.H for the next three years and I look forward to sharing our progress, and your continued engagement and partnership as we work together to achieve our updated vision-“an engaged community that works to end sexual and domestic violence.”

I am grateful for this community and your support; we recognize that “we are truly in this together”. Please stay in touch and help us remind survivors that we are here.

Sincerely, and with hope for the future,

Lysetta Hurge-Putnam  LICSW, MSW
Executive Director

Letter from the Independence House Board President

2020…… Wow! What a year this has been. For so many of us 2020 has been a tough and arduous year, starting in March when the Coronavirus hit us with a vengeance. In the US and globally the numbers of sick and deceased ever increasing brought anxiety and deep anguish, only to be exacerbated in this country with the overwhelming chaos in our political system.

However, I am so very happy and grateful to report that, under the outstanding leadership and expertise of our Executive Director, Lysetta Hurge-Putnam, Independence House has been able to weather the storm and continues to offer support, education, and advocacy to those endeavoring to escape the trauma of domestic and sexual violence.

IH’s dedicated staff work tirelessly to continue to advance the mission of this agency which is to help all domestic violence and sexual assault victims, survivors and children by creating opportunities for safety and empowerment through crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling, referral, outreach, prevention and education. Our vision is an engaged community that actively prevents sexual and domestic violence, and our guiding principle advances “Centering the Last Girl.” This principle ensures access to services and support for survivors who are most oppressed and marginalized.

Independence House Strategic Plan encompasses centering the “Last Girl”, and we have agreed that going forward all of our work will be approached through this lens. Our Strategic Plan focus areas are Board and Staff development, space concerns, services expansion, and new services & prevention & education and & outreach.

Three years ago, a Building Committee team of staff and board began looking at the lack of space and cramped quarters at our building on Bassett Lane in Hyannis. As IH has grown to meet the demands of the survivors looking for our help, the space at Bassett Lane has not. Often, there are limited private meeting rooms available, staff are crowded in small rooms, and where do we put the interns, we have every year?! Our Building Committee chaired by our indomitable and dynamic Board member Lauren Kanzer have been meeting to address this issue. The committee began work studying the space problems to evaluate the existing building and considering an addition.  This was followed by hiring an architect to help conduct a Feasibility Study to then having schematics and rough costs to build a new separate, fully accessible building on our site to create a campus setting. The team is now working on forming a Steering Committee to proceed with our next steps.

Fundraising is extremely important to supplement the work Independence House does on behalf of survivors and the Board of Directors. Stewardship Committee continues to work hard at raising funds, and your support of our fundraising events make all the difference. Additionally, please be on the look out for the Independence House Annual Appeal which helps to alleviate the enormous challenges faced by survivors of domestic and sexual violence

To the Independence House ambassadors, funders, and donors who further our mission I extend our eternal gratitude on behalf of our organization and the survivors we serve. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts and for your continued support.

Angela Nash Hennemuth
Board President

1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience  physical abuse by an intimate partner at some time in their lifetime.    1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped sometime in their lifetime.
At least 5 million acts of domestic violence annually are directed to women age 18 and older with over 3 million involving men.   More than 51% of female victims of rape report being raped by an intimate partner. and 40.8% by an acquaintance.
Community Based
Domestic Violence Services

3,698 survivors of intimate partner violence: increased their perception of safety and well-being; increased their supportive systems and decreased their isolation as an outcome of their involvement with Independence House.  100% of the reporting survivors reported meeting their individual self-identified goals which included increased economic freedom/independence, decreased fear and anxiety about the future, established a safe home environment free from abuse and violence; increased sense of self determination (empowerment) and increased days of feeling hopeful. 


Sexual Violence
Rape Crisis Center

Of 647 survivors of sexual violence/abuse served, of those in need of medical services and support 100% increased their knowledge about obtaining medical care after an assault and about accessing needed resources; 100% of those survivors with intrusive memories learned new skills to effectively manage those memories; and 100% have moved closer to reducing self-blame for sexual assault/victimization and have increased their coping skills for managing their self-identified feelings of anxiety and depression as a result of sexual violence/abuse. 

National Sources: NSVRD, CDC

The People and Towns We Served

Your Valued Dollars

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all of our Funders, Foundation Grantors,
and Individual Donors and Supporters for their generosity in fiscal year 2020.
We wish to not publish the names of our contributors in order to respect their privacy.

Once I got to Independence House, I felt welcome, and I did not even have an appointment.

24/7 Hotline      1126 Hours


Our hotline is often the first point of contact for survivors or others in our community who are seeking domestic and sexual violence services or information.

The Independence House hotline advocates provide immediate response to crises resulting from sexual assault and domestic violence.

In FY20, our hotline advocates increased short term crisis response strategies for callers; increased access to resources, increased knowledge of resources, connected callers with additional services, and provided access to Independence House’s array of services. These outcomes were achieved with 1126 hours of call responses.

Emergency Domestic & Sexual Violence Shelter 

8700+ Hours

Our emergency domestic violence residence provides an  inclusive safe haven for domestic violence and sexual assault victims and children. Dedicated advocates support survivors in meeting their well-being needs through tailored support and advocacy counseling and resource assistance.

For some victims of sexual and domestic violence, fleeing from their own homes is their only recourse for escaping injury and/or death.

In FY20 the Independence House Emergency Shelter provided over 8700 hours of day and night 24/7 shelter and support service to 41 entering and exiting individuals, including family units, with some staying longer than three months.

The Independence House advocate helped me and my child find a safe and secure short-term shelter where I could for the first time in years relax mentally.

Children Who Witness Violence

435 Children

Children who witness violence or are victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These include mental health conditions, physical health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, poor self-esteem, and other health concerns. 38% of American children have witnessed violence between their parents. 

In FY20, Independence House, Inc. Child Witness to Violence Program helped 435 children exposed to domestic violence to increase their sense of well-being and learn healthy self-expression of emotions. All reporting children identified their experience with Independence House as positive

Tween/Teen Program

391 Teens

Tween/teen dating violence includes sexual physical, emotional violence in person or electronically, including  threatening  social media posts between two people who are romantically involved. Teen sexual assault can take place as dating violence and/or with a friend, classmate, acquaintance or stranger where there is no romantic involvement. One in 10 high school girls and 1 in 20 high school boys reported being forced  into sex or shown visually inappropriate images. African American and Hispanic girls are more likely to experience sexual violence than their white counterparts, and 29.9 % of lesbian/bisexual girls reported in one survey that they had been forced to have sexual intercourse. (Source NSVRC)

Independence House Teen programs helped 391 teens to develop positive coping skills to help build and increase their resilience, and identify how to expand their circle of support and safe affirming peer relationships. 100% of reporting tween/teens identified their involvement with Independence House as helpful to them.

Civil Legal Advocacy

126 Survivors

Survivors of domestic violence are often disadvantaged in the court setting as they often show up in court without an attorney, while their partners are represented by legal Counsel.The Independence House Civil legal program is intended to increase trauma informed representation for domestic violence victims and sexual assault survivors (civil matters) by attorneys who are knowledgeable about trauma and the needs of domestic and sexual violence survivors relative to abuse prevention orders and other family law issues.

In FY 2020 our civil Legal attorney supported 126 clients who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence with direct legal representation, advice and support on a number of individual specific issues, resulting in successful outcomes and a more empowering court experience. 100% of survivors who provided feedback identify that the program effectively met their needs.


SAFEPLAN Court Advocacy  

1145 Victims/Survivors


Victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment often perceive their experiences in the court system as “overwhelming”, “unfair” or “intimidating”. The Independence House SAFEPLAN court advocacy services improves the experiences of victims who petition the courts for protective or harassment orders, and increases the likelihood of their return for a second hearing for protective orders.

SAFEPLAN  court advocacy services are focused on helping survivors access assistance and support from our SAFEPLAN advocates with the applications for 209A abuse prevention and 258E harassment orders, providing information about legal options; safety planning, support and referral to additional long-term services.

In FY20  Independence House SAFEPLAN advocates helped 1,145 victims/survivors in the 3 district courts and probate and family court on Cape Cod to access 209A and 258E orders granted by a judge as well as access additional long-term assistance including ongoing counseling and advocacy at our community based programs. Survivors of our SAFEPLAN program complete client feedback forms and in every case reported 100% satisfaction with the help they received as well as feeling safer as a result of the services they participated in.

I was terrified and shaking the entire time I was in the court room, but grateful that an Independence House court advocate was standing right next to me. Although she didn’t say a word once we got into the court room, I felt her strength and support which really helped me not to fall apart, especially when I had to face my husband.

Prevention, Education and Outreach  

353 hours

1891 community members

Our primary prevention work aims to decrease the rates of sexual violence in communities most vulnerable and most impacted by sexual violence. To effectively achieve this outcome Independence House is partnering with Cape Organization for the Rights of People with Disabilities(CORD).

Over the past year, the focus of this work has endeavored to build capacity at three specific organizations via staff trainings that increase staff and leadership knowledge about the high rates of sexual assault for people with disabilities along with providing examples of promising practices of community level prevention strategies that include improving and monitoring safety in the facility/workplace and developing and consistently applying workplace policies that promote and enhance safety.

Partners and agencies involved in our prevention, education and outreach work benefited from 353 hours of activities and reached 1891 community members.

100% of survey respondents reported that trainings and outreaches increased their knowledge and that the information was useful to their work.


Housing Stabilization / Transitional Housing 

4380 Hours

Domestic violence is among the leading causes of homelessness for women and children, and finding decent affordable housing poses a significant barrier as is maintaining stable housing. Our residential and non-residential transitional housing programs are a response to this need for survivors.

The Independence House Residential Transitional Housing program offers safe housing, and survivors may elect to participate in comprehensive trauma informed survivor centered support, inclusive of but not limited to:  counseling, financial empowerment strategies and housing advocacy to secure permanent housing.

Our non-residential housing stabilization increases survivor’s capacity to maintain their apartment/home, and employment.

In FY20 Independence House expanded our transitional housing units in order to serve more survivors. This expansion was made possible through a single donation received from the New England Patriots Foundation in FY16. This FY20, the transitional housing program provided 365 days of housing to survivors and 4380 hours of service. Two families graduated into permanent living situations in FY20.


My Independence House counselor helps me to focus on myself so I can better take care of my daughter. She is patient, encouraging, and kind and is helping me to find my voice, strength, and my self worth. I am getting better at not blaming myself for being abused. I trust myself, and I am looking forward to the future. 
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