Agency helping people recover from domestic abuse putting down local roots with steering committee

Published 6:24 am Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Support, counseling, advocacy, shelter, education and prevention — a local non-profit strives to offer all of these things to anyone affected by domestic abuse.

GreenHouse17, with its main residency location in Lexington, also has an office here in Danville which serves Boyle, Mercer and Garrard countians with those needs. And unfortunately, those needs continue to rise.

Diane Fleet, the agency’s assistant director, and the local representative Andrea Lewis were on-hand during the last Danville City Commission meeting to accept a proclamation declaring  October as National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month; something they both say every community should be aware of every day.

Email newsletter signup

A United Way partner, the agency also is working to create a local steering committee in order to not only more effectively promote awareness of the issue, but get the word out about GreenHouse17’s umbrella of services offered. Fleet said its board meetings have always been held in Lexington, but those are sometimes difficult for members in other cities to get to.

Started in July of 2004, GreenHouse17 was first named Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, and it raised $1.2 million in ‘06 to support its purchase of an emergency shelter facility. Fast-forward through lots of work and the agency acquiring a mortgage, it has permanently located in a 32-bed facility on a 40-acre farm on the Fayette-Clark county line. It also received a federal grant, in partnership with Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, to support services for survivors living in housing; a three-year research grant in partnership with the University of Kentucky to research the effectiveness of farm-based programming; and a grant to increase its capacity to improve the safety of residents.

“We decided to begin farming out there, since we have all of this land,” Fleet said. She said people who deal with stress and trauma do well out in nature.

“That lended why we changed our name — we got lost in all the ‘Bluegrass’ names …” The new name was chosen because a greenhouse is a protective place for plants to live until they can flourish on their own, Fleet said. The 17 represents the number of counties served.

“I think our kind of go-to statement is moving people from crisis to self-sufficiency. If they need court advocacy, counseling, their kids need services, shelter — we try to put those things in place so folks can live without violence.”

Here in Danville, there may not be a residential location for clients, but Lewis works with many in the tri-county area out of an office on Crescent Drive. A certified domestic violence advocate, Lewis explained how the agency offers such a myriad of services, it’s almost hard to explain in one sitting.

“I am in three different courts, three days a week, working with individuals who may be referred to us by other community agencies or by word of mouth, or through our 24/7 crisis hotline,” she said. In her role offering legal advocacy, she may work with someone who is trying to get a protective order in place, which could require anything from helping them through the paperwork to simply sitting next to them in court; or she may be counseling them on a more therapeutic level; offering them help with housing assistance; organizing group sessions …

The stats say it all, Lewis said: One in three women and one in four men are victims of domestic violence.

“Yes, most are women,” Lewis said. In her four years with GreenHouse17, she can count on one hand the number of men who have come forward to get help with what the agency refers to as intimate partner abuse. But that doesn’t mean men aren’t victims, too.

There are so many kinds of abuse, people are surprised to hear about them all, she said. Abuse can often occurs in ways that don’t leave visual marks. Aside from physical, there’s emotional, financial, sexual, even technological forms of abuse.

“There are a lot of powerplay dynamics concerning abuse,” Lewis said. The abuser may take control of the person’s phone or social media platforms, even install tracking devices to see where they are at all times or to monitor who they talk to.

Lewis has worked on cases where a person has withheld family funds from the partner, or taken control of that person’s earnings, disabling them from being able to function independently.

“And probably a big misconception is that these are all poor, uneducated people being affected. It’s not. And sometimes, the person being abused will not come forward due to a social standing stigma,” Lewis said, if their partner is considered a powerful person in a community. “Abuse doesn’t discriminate.”

Lewis said because she does cover three counties, it’s best if someone in immediate need call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline; they can work to help the person get to a safe place.

“That’s our first priority, is to get that person into safety, and many many things can follow that, from teaching them how to self-care, to rebuilding their credit and starting over again.”


• If you or someone you know is living in an abusive relationship, you can call GreenHouse17’s 24-hour crisis hotline at (800) 544-2022..
• Anyone interested in finding out more about being a part of GreenHouse17’s local steering committee, with the first meeting planned for February and aimed at engaging and educating the community, may call Mary Trollinger at (859) 519-1922 or email to learn more.
• Watch future issues of The Advocate-Messenger for an interview with someone who has used GreenHouse17’s services.