By Alan Keays, VTDigger
The Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter has changed its name as it moves to the next chapter in its history of supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Avaloy Lanning, the organization’s executive director, said Thursday night.
“We recognize that for too many people and for too long a time someone else has been writing their story, controlling their narrative,” Lanning said. “Not any longer.”
She spoke from the stage of Tuttle Hall on the campus of the College of St. Joseph in Rutland to a crowd of about 200 people gathered for the unveiling of the organization’s new name and slogan.
“It’s time for us, for our community, for survivors, to take control of that narrative and write a new story,” Lanning told the crowd as a large screen behind her then displayed the words, “NewStory Center, Turning the Page on Violence.”
Lanning said later that the new name, which has been kept under wraps for weeks in anticipation of Thursday’s unveiling, was a year in the making, involving the organization’s board of directors, staff and consultant Joan Gamble.
There were other suggestions, Lanning said, but in the end, all reached agreement.
“This was the one that spoke to everyone,” she added.
Lanning said the new name sends the message to the people her organization serves and other victims and survivors of crime and violence: “Here’s a blank sheet of paper, you get to write your own story, it gets to be what you want it to be. I think that’s why it spoke to us.”
The organization traces its roots to 1979, when it was first known as the Rutland County Battered Women’s Shelter, located in a former jail on Center Street.
“The unfortunate symbolism of the jailhouse was not lost on the shelter’s founders, whose mission was to help battered women free themselves from the cycle of domestic violence,” reads a history of the organization on its website.
“Over time, and in connection with expanded service offerings, the organization moved to a new, more welcoming location, a house with the capacity for 24 beds.”
That new site in Rutland became known as HerStory House, Lanning said.
Then, in 1981, the organization changed its name to Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter, which carried through until Thursday night.
The nonprofit organization serves women, men and children who are the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
It recently announced that in fiscal year 2017, from July 1, 2016, to June, 20, 2017, the organization provided direct services to 924 people. Those direct services included emergency shelter, clinical services, support during sexual assault nurse exams and other assistance.
Also in fiscal year 2017, the organization reported providing emergency shelter to 433 women, men and children, resulting in 13,141 “bednights,” the most in the organization’s history.
Almost simultaneously with the announcement of the new name Thursday night, the organization’s website was changed to one for NewStory Center.
The new name is “a nod” to the organization’s history, from HerStory House to NewStory Center, Lanning said after the event.
“I like it because of the word center,” she added. “That, to me, means we are more than a shelter.”
Donna GoodHale, chair of the organization’s board of directors, told the crowd Thursday that for years there had been “confusion” associated with the group’s name.
“We could longer continue our identity crisis,” GoodHale said. “There was too much work to be done.”
That led to the start of the organization’s strategic planning process about a year ago.
“We have a name that reflects our purpose,” GoodHale said, later adding, “Tonight, this is much greater than just a name change. It is us standing on the rooftop to tell our story.”