Wynona’s House in Newark Empowers Community to Aid Abuse Survivors

The nonprofit helps Essex County children and families facing abuse through investigative, prosecutorial, treatment and prevention services.

Children play a game of ring toss
Founded in 1999, Wynona’s House advocates for child-abuse victims and their families. Photo courtesy of Wynona’s House

When a passenger recently revealed that she and her children were being abused by her husband, the cab driver knew just what to do. Shortly after that ride, the hotline at Wynona’s House received an anonymous call. The 23-year-old, Newark-based, child-advocacy nonprofit relies on tips like these to safely aid survivors, says the institution’s CEO, Dominic Prophete.

“When the community is empowered, they want to help,” he says. “We know that abuse does not happen in isolation.” 

The organization, which is accredited with the National Children’s Alliance, helps children and their families in Essex County who have experienced abuse and neglect. The nonprofit collaborates with local organizations and the community. This interdisciplinary approach allows the nonprofit to work directly with local law enforcement, child-protection services, prosecutors, mental health advocates and victim-advocacy professionals to ensure the best outcomes while investigating abuse, aiding survivors and holding offenders accountable. 

“It’s really about being preventative in our approach,” Prophete says. “The community needs to create more safe spaces.”   

The holistic process practiced at Wynona’s House guarantees that the onus does not fall entirely on already vulnerable victims in precarious positions, Prophete adds. The organization disseminates information in schools and other community venues to educate the public to look out for manipulation and grooming tactics of abusers and to report warning signs like poor sleep or an inability to focus.   

“It’s not something people want to talk about,” Prophete says. “We need to normalize it.”   

The organization, formerly known as the Senator Wynona Lipman Child Advocacy Center, is named after the late politician, who worked tirelessly to support domestic-violence survivors and people experiencing homelessness. Lipman successfully spearheaded a harm-reduction method uniquely used at the nonprofit, which prevents survivors from being retraumatized through the reporting and prosecuting process. It ensures that survivors are only interviewed once by a trained professional in a non-accusatory, non-threatening way.   

In 1971, Lipman was the first Black woman elected to the New Jersey State Senate. Having grown up in Georgia during Jim Crow, she always advocated for the disenfranchised. “It was part of her natural trajectory,” Prophete says. “Her life story speaks to the passions, wants and desires of many. She personified something bigger than herself.”   

Lipman played a pivotal role in getting funding to create the center, but did not get to see it come to fruition. Lipman died in Newark in 1999.   

“The name of it was not only to honor her work and her legacy for those children and families of the state,” Prophete says, “but also for championing the center’s existence.”

Wynona’s House provides direct services to more than 600 abused or neglected children each year. Visit wynonashouse.org to get involved, donate or report abuse.

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