Portraits of Peace House History: A Path Toward Healing

Adult therapy room at the new Peace House Community Campus 

This year marks 25 years of Peace House serving survivors of family violence and abuse in Summit and Wasatch counties through shelter, support services, education and outreach. As part of our 25th Anniversary Year, each month we are spotlighting some of the many individuals who have shaped Peace House history. Throughout the year, we will be honoring and commemorating all those who have supported the life-saving and life-changing work that Peace House has offered our community over the past 25 years.

Peace House serves the many needs of survivors of interpersonal violence in Summit and Wasatch counties through a variety of critical resources. Currently, seventy percent of clients solely use Peace House’s outreach services, whereas on average only thirty percent of their clients use their residential services—which include emergency shelter and transitional housing. Survivors most often come to Peace House through their emergency helpline, a first point of contact since the organization’s origins as Domestic Peace Task Force (DPTF) in the early 1990s. Shelter advocates have been trained to answer the helpline, (800) 647-9161, and direct clients to services both in and outside of Peace House. Shelter advocacy, case management, support groups, and clinical therapy are resources within Peace House that help survivors identify their needs, establish goals, and help them on their path toward long-term healing.

Case Management

Case management has been an essential service of Peace House since the shelter opened in 1995. Case managers like Pepe Grimaldo (2004–present), Amie Roberts (2005–2007), Emily Bench (2007–2015), Jessica Gray (2010–2016), and Julie Benedetto (2019–present) have collectively helped thousands of clients find safety and healing. (See Portraits of Peace House, Peace House, Est. 1995.)  Amie Roberts recognizes that one of her important roles as a case manager was to validate what survivors were going through. As she explains, shame and self-blame are often tied to victims’ experiences, and they need to be reminded that the abuse they’ve suffered is undeserved and not their fault. Tim Savage, Peace House’s Program Director, describes the important role of case manager as a compassionate supporter who helps survivors develop goals and objectives that they may put into a solid plan to help them move their lives forward.

Each victim who is connected with Peace House has the opportunity to receive case management. Julie Benedetto, current Case Manager at Peace House, explains the four-part intake process that case managers take each of their clients through. The process often begins when a victim reaches out to Peace House’s 24-hour helpline and connects with a shelter advocate. The initial intake always starts with safety planning, ensuring survivors have a plan to keep themselves safe. Victims then go through a danger and lethality assessment that determines the degree of danger they’re in. This part of the intake “informs their safety and action plan,” Julie notes. Next, they complete a needs and strengths assessment, “which looks at different areas of their life, what their needs are, what their priorities are, and forms their action plan,” she explains. Finally, clients establish an action plan that encourages them to set goals based on their priorities and needs. Through this process, victims may see a clear path forward while case managers can identify the best way to support their clients in meeting their needs and goals. 

Part of being a case manager is receiving 40 hours of trauma-informed training, which helps staff better understand what clients might be experiencing. Julie also emphasizes the relevance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—unless case managers can help survivors meet basic needs of having food, shelter, and safety, beginning the real emotional work that helps victims ultimately stay safe and not simply survive, but thrive, is difficult.

Peace House Support Groups

Peace House has offered safe and confidential support groups to survivors of domestic violence both in and outside of the shelter for more than twenty years. “Support group participants discuss shared experiences and provide help to other survivors. Support groups have shown a significant increase in participants’ feelings of support, overall well-being, and stress levels.” [1]

Many thoughtful and qualified staff members and community volunteers have led these support groups over the years. In 2001, Joel Monreal was the first full-time male staff member at Peace House. As Shelter Director, Joel ran support groups for shelter residents. Marcela Montemurro, Executive Director of DPTF at the time, says, “He was an amazing male role model for the women [at the shelter].”

Cynthia Sandoval came to Peace House as a volunteer in 2001. With her background as a child therapist, Sandoval became Peace House’s child advocate up until she retired in 2019.  She ran support groups for children of different ages inside the shelter for many years. 

Former Executive Director Jane Patten recalls that another volunteer, Lauren Vitulli, was “miraculous,” offering art therapy and a myriad of art projects to children inside the shelter on Monday nights while their mothers attended support groups between 2005 and 2010.

Other volunteer group leaders included Jan Speicher, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Park City who offered parent training and support groups for survivors at the shelter.  Jan says that she felt the “group setting was really helpful” for survivors. In addition, Karen Koerselman applied her LPC background to lead groups at Peace House for many years. During the years between 2004 and 2009 when she was Shelter Director at Peace House, she backed off of leading groups, but then became a volunteer group leader again.  

Laura Grimaldo, known as Pepe within the community, joined Peace House in 2004 as Bilingual Outreach Coordinator. Pepe established a bilingual support group in the community that has been running for almost 15 years. The group offers life skills and family support through a shared cultural understanding, while educating the Latinx community about available resources. Since 2018, Sister Veronica Fajardo, CSC, a bilingual licensed therapist and Sister of the Holy Cross, has led the group with the support of Pepe, who also provides legal advocacy support. Their Monday night parenting group has continued to gather online during the pandemic. Veronica has seen even higher levels of participation since the group has been meeting online, which she thinks is due to participants having fewer barriers to navigating travel and finding child care. Pepe now joins the group near the end of each meeting to provide referrals and information on legal resources such as protective orders, civil stalking injunctions and immigration relief. 

Kendra Wyckoff, Executive Director of Peace House, emphasizes the importance of having bilingual team members. “Language access is critical to survivors to reduce barriers and ensure access to safety and justice within our communities,” she says.  Currently Peace House has several Spanish-speaking staff members who provide support and services across programs. The organization also partners with Holy Cross Ministries to provide counseling services in Spanish for Peace House clients.

Another Latinx group that Pepe helped establish is PC Unidos. Peace House, partnering with bilingual coordinators from Christian Center of Park CIty and the Park City School District, formed this group of bilingual direct-service providers. Their goal was to identify gaps in services available to Summit and Wasatch counties’ Spanish-speaking communities. In 2015, PC Unidos came together for the first time at Peace House’s offices on Sidewinder Drive in Park City. Today the group comprises 26 bilingual direct-service providers who meet monthly for ninety minutes to share knowledge about resources they offer the Latinx community and how they can best share resources to support each other’s clients. 

Group Programs

Tim Savage, Peace House Program Director, came on board in 2016 and helped the organization obtain its outreach clinical therapy license. With this license, Peace House began to offer curriculum-based group therapies in and outside of their residential services. Shame Resiliency is a curriculum developed by Brené Brown that Peace House began offering in 2017.  This 12-week course led by a Peace House therapist helps survivors heal from trauma while building self esteem and dignity. Healthy Relationships is another curriculum Peace House offers to both community members and Peace House residents, with bilingual materials. Tim describes this curriculum as designed to support victims who are caught in the cycle of domestic violence. The curriculum helps build their awareness around these cycles and teaches a skill set to recognize them and to navigate away from unhealthy relationships and toward healthy ones. 

In 2015, Chelsea Benetz Robinson implemented the Seeking Safety program. Peace House offered this program to Summit County Jail as a support group for inmates. Speaking about Seeking Safety, Chelsea says, “Violence is a spectrum; usually inmates have been a victim to it.” Jane Patten emphasizes the positive impact of this program in fostering connections within the community to support healing and break the cycle of abuse. Sister Veronica ran Seeking Safety for Peace House at the jail until 2019, when COVID-19 prevented all groups from meeting in person. Veronica offered separate groups to men and women, presented in both Spanish and English, to help them build coping mechanisms to deal with trauma. Peace House provides these bilingual groups to clients within the shelter, too, to support survivors on their path toward finding safety and healing.  

All Peace House groups meet clients wherever they are along their wellness journey. Groups also promote awareness of the resources that are available to survivors.

Clinical Therapists

Chelsea Benetz Robinson became Peace House’s first Director of Clinical Therapy in 2015. With the support of Jessica Gray, Peace House’s first Program Director, they applied for and attained a clinical services provider license through the Department of Human Services. This license allows the organization to provide clinical therapy to its shelter clients. Chelsea also brought on four part-time licensed therapists who saw clients at Peace House’s outreach offices on Sidewinder Drive in Park City. Peace House continues to provide their therapists specific trauma-informed training, as well as EMDR (eye movement desensitization therapy) training, a successful modality that centers on trauma-focused cognitive therapy. Therapists use a variety of modalities that best support children and adults who have experienced trauma. Each client may receive a minimum of ten therapy sessions, as required by Peace House’s clinical therapy licensing. Chelsea explains, “Upon eight sessions, we ask clients if they are meeting their treatment goals and, if so, we can extend their sessions” or refer them to therapists outside of Peace House for longer term care. “We are sometimes just a blip on their radar, which can be enough to show them another way, and can impact the rest of their life,” she acknowledges. Success may be measured simply by introducing some people to what a safe and healthy relationship looks like. “They may have their first healthy relationship while in therapy,” notes Chelsea.

Cynthia Sandoval worked with Peace House as a child advocate for nearly 18 years, beginning in 2001. Once the organization received its license to provide therapy, she had an even greater impact by providing children and parents counseling at Peace House and in the schools. (See Portraits of Peace House, Peace House, Est. 1995.) This support service often worked in conjunction with Peace House educators who taught students in Summit and Wasatch counties from kindergarten through 12th grade. Children who come to Peace House with their parents for counseling may now meet with therapists in rooms specifically designed for child therapy. For the past two years, twenty percent of the clients Peace House serves have been children. 

Sister Veronica has helped clients of Peace House since October 2017 by providing clinical therapy for Spanish-speaking clients. Veronica’s bicultural background is an asset for her and her clients. “It can help align experiences” with a cultural understanding, she notes, while providing a level of comfort for those she serves. As a result, Veronica’s clients have expressed to her that they don’t have to explain things as much, and are less concerned about their experience being lost in translation. 

The rewards in Veronica’s work come, she says, ”when a client realizes they can heal. It is life changing.” She explains that the brain has the capacity to heal, to literally change. As parents learn to cope and heal, they can become better parents to their kids. As kids heal, they can focus better in school and get along better with others, Veronica further explains. Through therapy Veronica also shares strategies with her clients about communicating effectively, which can be life changing as well. As a special education teacher for 12 years before working for Peace House, Veronica loves working with children, providing trauma-focused cognitive therapy through sensory-processing activities and play therapy. These therapies, she points out, can change their brains and their lives. Clients often say to her, You have changed not just my life, but also changed my family’s life.

April Wallace (2018–present) sees her role as a therapist at Peace House as sometimes simply offering hope. She states, “Survivors are incredibly resilient and resourceful. Many clients share that they have been given hope, and we have saved their lives” by offering them a vision of a future that they didn’t know was possible. April sees part of her role as assuring clients that they are not alone—that, sadly, they are not the only ones who have had these experiences—and she helps remove some of the self-blame they have put on themselves.  She is there to validate their experiences, offer grief counseling, and sometimes simply be someone who will not judge them or their actions. April acknowledges that most victims of domestic violence will return to their perpetrators between four to seven times before they finally leave their abusive relationship, and it’s important that victims “feel comfortable to reach back out to us again.” Clients do come back to Peace House in all phases of their healing. “Our hope is to foster hope,” says April.

Clinical Therapy Community Partnerships

Therapy is indeed an important part of supporting survivors. Before Peace House applied for a clinical therapy license in 2016, the organization referred clients to licensed community partners. Peace House’s earliest partner was Park City Counseling Institute. [2]  Counseling Institute provided not only counseling to Peace House’s clients, but organizational assistance to the early founders of Domestic Peace Task Force. Joan Hatfield, the former director of Park City Counseling Institute, was one of the founding members of DPTF.  Linda Barbour was the original DPTF board chair (1994–1997) while she was also working as a licensed therapist for Counseling Institute. Another early board member of DPTF, Dr. Lynn Mayne served as the director of Counseling Institute for more than a decade. Beginning in 2003, Peace House also partnered closely with Valley Behavioral Health, when they became Summit County’s contracted behavioral-health provider. Today Peace House has their own licensed therapists, yet based on the needs of their clients they still partner with and refer long-term clients to Summit County’s current contracted provider, University of Utah, as well as to Christian Center of Park City and Jewish Family Service—all of which offer counseling on a sliding scale.

Beginning in June 2019, Peace House began offering clients medication management through a shared community APRN (advanced practice registered nurse). Linsey Broadbent, Doctor of Nursing Practice, began serving Summit County’s most vulnerable populations using her family practice and psychiatry training. Through a grant provided by Park City Community Foundation, Dr. Broadent currently splits her time helping clients at Peace House, Christian Center, People’s Health Clinic, and Jewish Family Service. She provides everything from primary care to mental health screenings, medication management, and clinical therapy. At Peace House, Linsey takes referrals from case managers and therapists. She says that she spends a lot of her time doing psychoeducation with clients to help survivors understand the effects of trauma on their brains, which can lead to certain behaviors. Sometimes temporary medication can help survivors cope with what they are going through, she explains, and can calm their trauma responses and help them be productive in moving their lives forward. “I can help identify and conceptualize coping skills” to support survivors where they are right now, Linsey says. 

When needed, Dr. Broadbent will advocate for Peace House clients who may have dual diagnoses. In these cases, she can offer them specific strategies or medications that may provide them more long-term support based on her diagnosis. Linsey cites the example of diagnosing a client who was suffering from bipolar disorder in addition to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which is common among victims of abuse. Being able to identify and treat a client holistically through therapy, strategies, a variety of modalities, and sometimes medication offers survivors the best chance of long-term healing.

Linsey is focused on supporting case managers, therapists, and the clients at Peace House, with her goals “centered on improving my patients’ quality of life,” she says. April Wallace recognizes the valuable impact of having Dr. Broadbent as part of the Peace House team and says she lets nearly all of her clients know that Linsey is a resource who is available to them.

Peace House is in place to support victims of interpersonal violence and abuse. They have a victim advocate available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,  to support anyone who needs services and to direct victims on a path toward healing.  The process of healing most often begins with a single call to (800) 647-9161. 

Researched and written by Karen Marriott
Edited by Sandra More

1* Support Groups

2* Counseling Institute

Community Partners: Alma Ruiz, Shauna Wiest, Leah Harter, Dr. Linsey Broadbent, Beth Armstrong, Tim Savage, and Ellen Silver

Joel Monreal, former Shelter Director and support group leader.
Jessica Wall and Emily Bench, former case managers.
Pepe Grimaldo, Bilingual Legal Advocate, with Christina Sally, former Peace House Education Coordinator.
Adult and child therapy rooms at the new Peace House Community Campus. Spanish-speaking support group run by Sister Veronica Fajado, CSC. 
Former clinical therapy and administrative offices of Peace House on Sidewinder Drive in Park City.