One in four women will encounter domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. That number is astounding, and eliminating domestic violence is the driving factor behind the last 16 years of work for Joan Prittie, the Executive Director of Project Safe.
Prittie graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law and began her work with domestic violence after being given the task of working with the Prisoner Legal Counseling Project. While working on this project, she began to see challenges in the legal system, especially with clemency for women who have retaliated against their abusive partners. During this time, Prittie was able to get many women out of life sentences that were due to a lack of awareness of the domestic violence issue.
“It opened my eyes to a need where I could be of service,” said Prittie.
To prevent these legal issues happening again, Prittie is the editor and co-author of the last four editions of the Georgia Domestic Violence Benchbook, a judicial resource guide that covers all information related to state and federal law in regards to domestic violence.
Working with the Prisoner Legal Counseling project was just the beginning for Prittie, and she continued against domestic violence by joining Project Safe in 1999.
Project Safe offers services from short-term crisis counseling on their 24-hour hotline to long-term support through housing programs. Project Safe helps countless domestic violence victims find solace and safety from their transgressors. For an organization to be so successful in offering these types of programs, there has to be a mastermind behind it. This mastermind is Joan Prittie, the Executive Director.
Piper Ruhmkorff, a junior at the University of Georgia, coordinated with Prittie to have her come speak to Ruhmkorff’s sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, about dating violence.
“She was professional, accessible, and easy to work with. I liked her speech because she was knowledgeable about her subject and steadfast in her dedication to the cause,” said Ruhmkorff.
Prittie’s schedule changes day-to-day while she runs this organization, and the daily surprises have become the norm. As any Executive Director would, she often checks in with her staff and personnel, and she spends time with planning and programming for the logistics of the organization. Because it is a non-profit, Prittie and her team at Project Safe often spend time fundraising and spreading the importance of domestic violence awareness. Traveling near and far, from on campus at UGA to Atlanta, she gives speeches to various audiences.
To Prittie, the most rewarding part of working with this organization is “to see policies change as a result of our efforts.”
Sarah Penfold, the Outreach Services Coordinator for Project Safe, works closely with Prittie on a day-to-day basis. Penfold oversees operations in the outreach department of Project Safe, meeting with clients in both individual and group settings.
“Joan is constantly making sure that no matter what, Project Safe continues to grow as an organization and is operating in a way that best serves our community,” said Penfold.
Project Safe is a non-stop initiative with many hopes and plans for the future, and Prittie is not letting it slow down. She recently helped implement the texting hotline, a free service with someone available to chat via text message at all hours of the day. This textline is rapidly growing, and she spoke of plans to take it statewide.
As the Executive Director, Prittie feels a moral urgency to keep Project Safe moving forward, she stated. She feels that she has a responsibility and an ability influence the culture of the organization, and the authority gives her room to be creative in finding new ways to end domestic violence.
“We are going to continue to look ahead at where opportunities are to make changes around the issues of domestic violence,” said Prittie.