By Mara Certic
Loretta Davis became the new executive director of The Retreat, East Hampton Town’s shelter for the victims of domestic abuse, last month. She spoke about her background and some of the programming the nonprofit organization offers.
When did you move out to the East End?
I started work on the 28th of January, right around when we had our first storm. I moved out that weekend. I spent a lot of time in Vermont, so I’m used to the snow, but the ice is unbelievable. But I’ve been coming out here for about 20 years, friends from college and high school have houses out here, and so I’ve been coming out for a long time.
I was a judge for 19 years in Tuxedo, New York, and that really is what I’ve been doing. I had criminal and civil cases, and of course we had domestic violence cases. I was an elected official, I ran every four years. And I really enjoyed that because I got to be involved with local government and with the community. I did that until 2013 when I was on the Roundtable [for the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island] moved here to Long Island.
What made you decide to change careers?
Well, I’ve always been involved in women’s issues, I’ve worked with the Business Council for Peace, which helps women in war-torn countries. So, I’ve always been interested in women’s issues, and I’ve helped women survivors in Rwanda, done some pro bono domestic violence work [in New York] as well. This seemed like a good opportunity and I thought I could use my experience both as a judge, and in administration.
What do you think are the most important programs offered by The Retreat?
Well, there’s the core programs we offer; we have the shelter and with that we have the 24-hour crisis hotline, and advocacy services for when survivors go to court, as well as violence protection programs. But there are a lot of other programs for people who aren’t in our shelter, and people in the community. We have counseling programs at our office here; we do work with the youth in schools including an educational program about healthy relationships. There’s also a program in high schools to prevent physical violence in relationships. There are also programs that work with fathers in order to educate fathers who might be at risk. That’s a program we’ve had now for a couple of years. I know people are surprised we work with men, but the idea is to work to prevent violence, it’s kind of a re-education for them. And it’s all free.
But we’ve also been working on a campus security program in Nassau County which is going to extend to Suffolk County Community College. So it’s not just family violence that we deal with. We can make a difference. What I’d like to do is strengthen our programs and expand our outreach.
How are you planning on doing both those things?
What I’d like to do is strengthen our programs, and expand our outreach. We have our big fundraiser coming up in June and that really helps us a lot. We do get a lot of grants, but if we didn’t have our contributions we wouldn’t be able to survive. But I think we should have some more community awareness events.
Last week there was an event in Sag Harbor with the Neo-Political Cowgirls: One Billion Rising. It was a great event; there were testimonials, lots of artists and musicians. It was a great community event, it brought awareness; donations were accepted. It was free! Everyone just provided everything: their services, their music, their dancing, the space. It was a really positive and personal evening; I was really impressed with how the community came together.
The Retreat has offices at 13 Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It also has legal advocates and counselors available. For more information, or to volunteer, call (631) 329-4398. The confidential 24-hour hotline number is (631) 329-2200.