Stepping into the future

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By JASON STARR

Women Helping Battered Women took a huge step forward last week.

The organization shed its antiquated name and rebranded to become Steps to End Domestic Violence. The staff and board of directors welcomed volunteers and partners to a celebratory name and logo reveal at St. Michael’s College last Thursday.

The old name was coined in 1974 after the organization grew out of Burlington’s Women Against Rape agency. For the past decade, staff and board members have dreamed of moving beyond the name. Each of the four words is unaligned with the organization, board member Elizabeth Chant of Colchester explained.

First, the nonprofit’s 20 staff members are not exclusively women. Second, “‘helping’ sounds good, but we believe in empowerment,” Chant said.

Steps to End Domestic Violence chairwoman Robin Grace, left, and executive director Kelly Dougherty reveal the organization’s new name last Thursday at St. Michael’s College. Since its founding in 1974, the organization was known as Women Helping Battered Women. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Steps to End Domestic Violence chairwoman Robin Grace, left, and executive director Kelly Dougherty reveal the organization’s new name last Thursday at St. Michael’s College. Since its founding in 1974, the organization was known as Women Helping Battered Women. (Photo by Jason Starr)

“Battered” is a problematic, narrow view of domestic violence that focuses only on physical abuse. The organization is focused on emotional, economic and psychological abuse, too. Finally, the second “women” in the title wasn’t broad enough either.

“Women are not the only people abused, violated, battered,” Chant said. “It turns out transgendered people have higher rates of abuse and battery of anyone, and we need to pay attention to those issues.”

The board hired a new executive director, Kelly Dougherty, about one year ago. Dougherty reinvigorated the name change/rebranding effort. The organization won a grant from St. Michael’s College’s student-led and student-funded granting organization Fix It With Five.

The allocation allowed Women Helping Battered Women to hire a branding agency, Interrobang Design Collaborative of Richmond, which worked with board members and staff for about a year to determine the new name. The group sought a name that was gender neutral, aspirational and explicit about the organization’s goal, to eradicate domestic violence and abuse.

Logo“I am really happy with the result,” Dougherty said.

The organization’s website relaunched this week at www.stepsvt.org. Its social media handle changed to @stepsvt, and its Facebook page was updated with the new name and logo. Its mission and services remain the same.

Steps to End Domestic Violence runs free, confidential services to help people leave abusive situations. It staffs a 24-hour hotline and offers housing services, legal help, education and support groups.

In addition to its paid staffers, about 190 volunteers support the organization.