By: Alivia Melius
For some, it may be difficult to create artwork surrounded by such a sensitive topic, but Tussey Mountain High School’s senior classman Cara Defibaugh was up for the challenge. On Nov. 21, Defibaugh entered her sketch to Your Safe Haven for a billboard in Saxton, Pennsylvania. The design was drawn to spread awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, showing local community members that resources are available to them through Your Safe Haven.
Your Safe Haven, Inc. is a crime victim center located in Bedford County. The non-profit organization provides services to citizens of the local area who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.Your Safe Haven offers counseling to victims, support in filing a Protection Form Abuse Order (PFA) and accompainment through the court system. They also provide similar services to victims of other serious crimes.
“Not everyone in the county knows what we do or even that we exist,” Executive Director Beth Hickey said.
To spread the word of Your Safe Haven, the organization has branched out using many forms of media such as radio advertising, television ads and billboards. Your Safe Haven reached out to schools across the county to participate in making billboard designs.
“A grant came out,” Hickey said, “and that’s when our team got together and hashed around different [ideas]. We talked about billboards,” Hickey said. “I was adamant that we go to the kids to get the billboards done. I didn’t want some computer-generated, generic billboard. I wanted something people respond to. They know that a child drew it, and they respond to it differently.”
Art departments in schools such as Chestnut Ridge High School and Bedford Area High School also submitted their signs, now placed in those communities.
Defibaugh’s design was original and was inspired by a story told by someone very close to her.
“A friend of mine who is a local firefighter and EMS responder gave me inspiration,” Defibaugh said. “He has done a lot of work up in Harrisburg, and he has also seen a lot [on] calls in places like Huntindgon,” Defibaugh said. “He explained one story, and I just drew it in the eyes of what he saw when he walked into the house [while responding for patient evaluation] to a call regarding traumatic injury,” Defibaugh said. “Everything I drew, I took his input on it. I wanted to make sure the way I drew it was exactly how he saw it. When I showed him the final result, he was surprised at how accurate it was to the actual event,” Defibaugh said.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” said the EMS responder. “I’m proud to be able to contribute my experiences for people to understand [the abuse from] the eyes of a first responder.”
Defibaugh received the assignment four days before it was to be completed after another student gave up the position.
“I’m thankful that [my art teacher] Mr. Adam Baughman trusted me with this project especially on such short notice,” Defibaugh said. “This was a very rewarding opportunity for me.”
The paper used for the artwork was set to specific dimensions for the ability to eventually expand it for a billboard. After the design was approved by Senior High Principal Janell Henderson, the sketch was sent back to Your Safe Haven. The next step is to create the actual copy for the billboard. The sketch will be sent to the Altoona branch of Lamar Advertising Company to be produced. The process is set to take two to three weeks, and the sign will be visible throughout the remainder of the school year.
“We know that domestic violence occurs in the Saxton area and in that school district; and hopefully if someone is a victim–child or adult–they can say, ‘You know what, I saw that billboard, let me look up Your Safe Haven’s number and see if they can help me,’” Hickey said.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a crime or is in need of urgent help, please contact Your Safe Haven, Inc. at (814) 623-7664 or (800) 555-5671.