About Us

Our Mission

The mission of Safe Passage is to promote the right of all to nonviolent and abuse-free relationships through advocacy, intervention and prevention in DeKalb County.

Our History

Safe Passage is the domestic violence agency and rape crisis center serving DeKalb County. We started in 1981 as a grassroots organization, run mostly by volunteers wanting to create a safe place in the community for victims of domestic violence. The agency has continued to expand and add programs and services. The addition of our prevention program, transitional housing program, 24-hour emergency medical response, and expanded children’s program, has ensured we’re better equipped to empower a broad range of survivors. In addition to the services we provide to survivors, our Partner Abuse Intervention Program has also given us an opportunity to play a role in ending the cycle of violence for offenders. Our ongoing partnerships and development allow us to provide 360° of services 24 hours per day, every day of the year.

Our Staff

All
Administration
Counseling
PAIP
Prevention & Communication
Residential
Case Management

Our Staff

Mary Ellen Schaid
Executive Director
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Mary Ellen Schaid
Executive Director
Mary Ellen has been the Executive Director of Safe Passage for over 3 years. She has an MSW from Loyola University, Chicago. Before coming to Safe Passage, Mary Ellen was the President/CEO of the Gillis Center, a large multi-service child welfare agency in Kansas City and the Executive Director of the DuPage Child Advocacy Center in Wheaton. She has spent her career serving children and adults of all genders who have been abused. Her passion is working to ensure that the organizations and systems intended to support survivors function with the highest quality of service possible.
Becky Versluys
Director of Operations
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Becky Versluys
Director of Operations
Jennifer Olbrich
Finance Director
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Jennifer Olbrich
Finance Director
Jennifer is a Certified Public Accountant and received her Masters of Business Administration from Northern Illinois University. Prior to joining Safe Passage she worked in the manufacturing industry for over twenty years.
Melissa McGraw
Director of Counseling Services
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Melissa McGraw
Director of Counseling Services
Melissa has 19 years of professional experience working with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, childhood survivors of trauma, children and teens with emotional and behavioral disorders, and persons with chronic mental illness. Melissa has a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University. Melissa has advanced training in domestic violence, sexual abuse, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. She is passionate about helping survivors of trauma to heal from their experiences and in ending violence against women and children.
Renee Wester
Residential Director
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Renee Wester
Residential Director
Renee is a Certified Domestic Violence Professional and graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2010. Renee began as a volunteer at Safe Passage in 2012. Since then, Renee has worked as an Advocate for both the Long Term Housing Program and the Emergency Shelter. She then worked as the Assistant Residential Coordinator and has been in her most recent position as Residential Services Director since August 2016. Renee is passionate about working with diverse populations and providing a safe space for survivors to heal.
Andrea Jackson
Assistant Residential Coordinator
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Andrea Jackson
Assistant Residential Coordinator
Andrea began her employment at Safe Passage in 2013 as a Case Manager. Andrea’s background includes working as an Art Instructor for students with a full range of disabilities, including behavioral disorders and autism. Andrea, who prefers to be called ‘Andy’, loves working at Safe Passage because of the people she works with, both staff and clients. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to understand, encourage, and empower people on a daily basis”. Andrea Jackson is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a B.F.A. in Painting/Drawing and a Masters in Art Education. She is a Certified Domestic Violence Professional and also a Certified PAIP facilitator.
Lynnea Erickson Laskowski
Communication & Prevention Services Director
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Lynnea Erickson Laskowski
Communication & Prevention Services Director
Lynnea Erickson Laskowski earned her Masters of Public Administration from Northern Illinois University. With a background in international and local nonprofit management, Lynnea is passionate about the role that prevention education plays in public health. Lynnea has previously worked as the director of Abuse Intervention Services at Safe Passage and is a certified PAIP facilitator.
Lori
Director of Advocacy Services
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Lori
Director of Advocacy Services
Lori started with Safe Passage 3 years ago as a Domestic Violence Legal Advocate. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Social Justice from Lewis University and is a Certified Domestic Violence Professional. She has over 10 years’ experience working within various non-profits and civil/criminal justice systems to advocate for survivors. She is passionate about assisting survivors maneuver through the civil/criminal justice system by providing education, support and empowerment.
Savannah Washington
Abuse Intervention Services Director
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Savannah Washington
Abuse Intervention Services Director
Savannah Washington earned her Bachelors of Psychology from Northern Illinois University and is currently pursuing a Masters of Forensic Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She has experience working with juvenile sex offenders and incarcerated adults and has previously worked as an Officer at DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. Savannah finds passion in changing the cycle of perpetrators committing domestic violence offenses.
Lisa Casner
Domestic Violence Adult Counselor
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Lisa Casner
Domestic Violence Adult Counselor
Lisa received her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling through Capella University after earning a Bachelor of Science in Business from Northern Illinois University. Lisa began her journey at Safe Passage as a volunteer, and then intern, in the Adult Counseling Program. Lisa has experience working in addictions counseling and has completed trainings on motivational interviewing, mindfulness, PTSD and trauma. Lisa uses an empowerment model and builds therapeutic relationships based on trust, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard. She focuses on healing, acceptance, learned coping skills, and knowledge.
Erika Montes
Domestic Violence Adult Counselor
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Erika Montes
Domestic Violence Adult Counselor
Erika earned her Master of Clinical Psychology from Universidad del Valle de Mexico and her Master of Educational Administration after completing her Bachelor of Psychology degree. Erika began her work as a criminal psychologist and in addition to her role at Safe Passage, she is a Partner Abuse Intervention Program International Certified Facilitator. Erika is passionate about Mental Health and is part of the National Alliance for Mental Illinois. With Nami, Erika became an Educational Certified Trainer and is a Support Group Certified Trainer.
Margaret Binhackova
Domestic Violence Adult Counselor
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Margaret Binhackova
Domestic Violence Adult Counselor
Margaret earned her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Northern Illinois University. She has an extensive background in working with severely traumatized youth. Margaret is originally from Czech Republic and is passionate about mental health and criminal justice.
Hayley Garcia
Sexual Assault Counselor
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Hayley Garcia
Sexual Assault Counselor
Hayley graduated in 2016 from Aurora University with a Master’s in Social Work. As a counselor, she strives to build a therapeutic relationship through genuineness, trust, and empowerment in order for survivors to feel safe and experience a healthy relationship. She finds passion in helping survivors of trauma heal from their experience through validation, encouragement, and healing. Lastly, she strongly advocates for prevention education and awareness to break the silence of the cycle of violence.
Mikail Bass
Domestic Violence Children’s Counselor
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Mikail Bass
Domestic Violence Children’s Counselor
Mikail earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from Aurora University after completing a Bachelor of Science in Family and Individual Studies from Northern Illinois University. Mikail uses scientifically-based approaches to psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychology. Mikail strives to develop strong therapeutic relationships and has a passion for ensuring the safety and emotional progression of her clients. She has completed numerous trainings on trauma and is always excited to learn new techniques. Mikail believes in meeting her clients as they are and strives to help clients develop an understanding of how important and strong they are.
Chaniqua Bryant
Domestic Violence Children’s Counselor
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Chaniqua Bryant
Domestic Violence Children’s Counselor
Chaniqua will earn her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in December 2017 after completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a minor in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. Chaniqua works in the Children Program as a Children’s Counselor. Chaniqua’s goal is to establish a strong rapport with the children and parents who seek services at Safe Passage. Chaniqua focuses on helping clients to accept the things that they would like to change in order for change to occur. Her vision is to support the youth by helping them to become self-sufficient adults.
Cameron Clinton-Earl
Domestic Violence Children’s Counselor
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Cameron Clinton-Earl
Domestic Violence Children’s Counselor
Cameron will be earning his Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (Fall 2017) after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology from Northern Illinois University. Cameron focuses on using the power of personal life stories to assist clients in discovering who they are and who they would like to become. Cameron’s goal is to provide a safe and open environment that allows for growth to take place and therapeutic relationships to form. Cameron is passionate about personal growth and empowerment and wants to assist individuals on their journey to self-discovery and healing. Cameron is also a Partner Abuse Intervention Program Certified Facilitator.
Lucy Sosa
Long Term Case Manager
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Lucy Sosa
Long Term Case Manager
Lucy earned her Masters of Art in Sociology and a Bachelors of Arts in Business and Spanish Translation from Northern Illinois University. Lucy’s main goal as a long term case manager is to give clients time to heal from trauma and to provide them with affirming experiences, practical tools and support systems that will allow them to become independent and self-sufficient while living in one of our apartments. Lucy hopes all victims become empowered survivors.
Nicole Ruffin
Case Manager
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Nicole Ruffin
Case Manager
Nicole received her Bachelor's Degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from Knox College in Galesburg, IL. She has been a case worker with Safe Passage for seven years, and received her ICDVP certification in 2012.
Abigail Sipes
Case Manager
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Abigail Sipes
Case Manager
Abby has a degree in Public Communication and Human Relations from Western Illinois University with a minor in Sociology. She is a lifelong resident of DeKalb and is passionate about helping people in her community. She has a long history of volunteerism and has been a local presenter. Abby is a DeKalb County Leadership Academy graduate and past board member as well as a current advisory board member for Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority. Abby currently works as a Case Manager with Safe Passage.
Alexandrea Villalobos
Case Manager
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Alexandrea Villalobos
Case Manager
Alexandrea earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Holistic Health from Western Michigan University. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Aurora University, which will be obtained in May 2018. She works as a Family Case Manager with clients in shelter as well as a Sexual Assault Counseling Intern. Alex finds passion in empowering survivors of abuse while helping them gain trust.
Kelly Johnson
Case Manager
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Kelly Johnson
Case Manager
Kelly earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Northern Illinois University in May 2016. She is a certified domestic violence professional and began at Safe Passage as an intern while pursuing her Bachelor’s degree. She was hired on as a staff member shortly after graduating. Kelly is passionate about empowering clients to become self-sufficient through the development of life skills and healthy coping strategies.
Devonna Scott
Case Manager
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Devonna Scott
Case Manager
Devonna is currently pursuing a degree in Human Development with an Emphasis in Family Social Services at Northern Illinois University. As a survivor of an abusive relationship, she recognizes the trauma abuse causes. She understands the importance of providing care and empathy to clients.
Kaiya Kersh
Case Manager
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Kaiya Kersh
Case Manager
Kaiya earned her Bachelors of Science in Family Social Services from Northern Illinois University in May 2017. She is a certified domestic violence professional and began at Safe Passage as an intern while pursuing her degree. Shortly before graduating she was hired as a staff member. Kaiya is passionate about working with survivors because she wants to empower clients to gain independence and raise awareness about the cycle of violence.
Kendal Baker
Marketing & Communication Specialist
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Kendal Baker
Marketing & Communication Specialist
Kendal earned her Bachelors at Northern Illinois University in Communication Studies with a minor in Journalism. With a background in nonprofit fundraising, event planning and social media management, Kendal is passionate about bringing the community together through education to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
Anthony Terry
Prevention Specialist
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Anthony Terry
Prevention Specialist
Anthony earned his Bachelors of Science in Public Health Administration with an emphasis in Family and Child Studies from Northern Illinois University. Anthony finds joy in educating and helping people which led him to work at Safe Passage. He has previously worked in education as a substitute teacher for the DeKalb County School District and is passionate about bringing his experience and enthusiasm for prevention to the community.
Christi Slavenas
Prevention Specialist
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Christi Slavenas
Prevention Specialist
Christi received a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Missouri in 1976. While teaching in Crystal Lake, Illinois, she earned a M.S. in Counselor Education from Northern Illinois University. Christi has always had a passion about giving each child a voice and empowering them as learners. As a client of Safe Passage in the 1980’s, Christi always remembered and valued the difference Safe Passage made in her life. For several years, she has been volunteering, working as a Children's Counselor, and presently enjoys working with the rest of the Prevention team as a Prevention Specialist.
Julie Guillebeaux
Domestic Violence Legal Advocate
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Julie Guillebeaux
Domestic Violence Legal Advocate
Julie earned a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Northern Illinois University and she is currently pursuing her Juris Doctor from NIU College of Law. Prior to joining the team at Safe Passage, Julie has worked with children with developmental disabilities and children who have experienced abuse or neglect. She is passionate about providing legal advocacy to diverse populations to help the survivors of Domestic Violence feel safe and protected in our community.
Katie
Domestic Violence Legal Advocate
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Katie
Domestic Violence Legal Advocate
Katie earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Aurora University. For the past several years, Katie has done missionary work for underprivileged communities, locally and internationally. She is fluent in Spanish and is excited to be able to serve the Spanish speaking population of Dekalb County. Katie is passionate about helping victims navigate through the legal system, while providing emotional support and encouragement.
Jasmine Pease
Sexual Assault Legal/Medical Advocate
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Jasmine Pease
Sexual Assault Legal/Medical Advocate
Jasmine earned her Bachelors at Northern Illinois University in Family Consumer Nutrition Services with an emphasis in Family Social Services. She is currently getting her Masters in Social Work with a specialization in Child Welfare at Aurora University. She is passionate about giving a voice to those who need it most and being a helping hand during a difficult time. Jasmine began as a Family Advocate working in the shelter at Safe Passage before becoming a Sexual Assault Legal Advocate.
Emily Miller
Sexual Assault Legal/Medical Advocate
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Emily Miller
Sexual Assault Legal/Medical Advocate
Emily has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from East Carolina University. During her college years, Emily worked at a rape crisis center. The experience helped solidify her passion for empowering survivors and paved the way for her career as a sexual assault legal advocate at Safe Passage.
Taylor Lupo
Case Manager / PAIP Facilitator
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Taylor Lupo
Case Manager / PAIP Facilitator
Taylor is a case manager on the weekends in the emergency shelter, as well as a Partner Abuse Intervention Facilitator. Taylor graduated with her undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University in May of 2017. She is currently in her first semester of Graduate School in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at NIU. Taylor started at Safe Passage as a volunteer in 2016. Shortly after, she was hired part-time to work in the Prevention Program as a Prevention Specialist. Taylor is passionate about working at this agency because she believes strongly in working in both victim and perpetrator services to prevent and end domestic violence.
Jerry Lane
PAIP Facilitator
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Jerry Lane
PAIP Facilitator
Jerry Lane has been working with Safe Passage since June of 2006. In the past, Jerry has served the community as the coordinator of Abuse Intervention Services, interim executive director of Safe Passage and Bischoff Act expert. Now semi-retired, Jerry works as a facilitator in the Partner Abuse Intervention Program. Jerry has a BS in Psychology, an MS in Community Mental Health, and post-graduate studies in Marriage and Family Counseling. Jerry has a life-long commitment to nonviolence and is passionate about working with offenders to address the social and cultural roots of interpersonal violence.
 
 
 
 

Executive Board

Eva Rey, Board President
Manager, System Analyst
Gallagher, Bassett Sus

Michael Kokott, Board Vice President
Hospital Administration
Northwesten Medicine Kish Health System

JeaNae Remala, Board Treasurer
Financial Solutions Team Member

Arthur (Art) Bingham, Board Secretary
Learning & Talent Development Assistant Director
Crowe Horwath

Nancy Partch
Retired 
Kishwaukee College

Tarryn Thaden
Architectual Designer/Warehouse Manager

Margie Komes
Attorney
Turner & Sackett Law Firm

Nancy Proesel
Community Activist

Kristina Lauritzen
Practice Manager
Friedrich’s Eye

Evan King
Attorney
Law Office of Riley N. Oncken

Mary Ellen Schaid, Executive Director
Safe Passage