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Eliza Conley-Lepene

Picture of Giraffe Eliza Conley-Lepene

In 2016, Eliza Conley-Lepene was in the throes of a violent relationship with her partner and took steps to leave, but it wasn’t easy. She looked for help on-line—counseling, a place to stay, advice—but her search for help was long and difficult.

“There needed to be a simplified process,” she said.

Fast-forward two years. Conley-Lepene is now a student at the University of Maine and is assigned a paper: Identify a problem and find a way to solve it. Based on her horrific experience trying to escape from her partner, she knows exactly what she wants to do. She makes a prototype of a cell-phone app that will help people in similar crises. Conley-Lepene gets an A.

But that isn’t the end, not by a long shot. Conley-Lepene works on the app, calls it Safe House, and soon makes it available to people needing the kind of help she knew they needed.

The app is a screen that users can click on for different issues, e.g., domestic violence shelters, suicide prevention, sex trafficking, pro bono legal help. In the middle of the screen is an emergency icon to call 911. “You consolidate all of those agencies into one place,” she explains, “so that way all you have to do is hit the problem and find the answer.”

To protect users’ identities from stalkers, the Safe House app is available only at the website, and not in app stores. The app now has links to resources nationwide. Conley-Lepone and volunteers have mailed media kits with information and QR codes to governors in every state, in addition to police departments and national organizations supporting crisis and recovery services.

“We cover every type of crisis,” says Conley-Lepene, “and every type of recovery situation, and we are trying to think of ways to help underserved populations.” So far, thousands of people have downloaded Safe House.

Conley-Lepene owns and manages a spa in Maine, she spends most of her time—and money—working with Safe House, now a nonprofit, and also participating in Finding Our Voices, a campaign focusing on domestic violence. She continually stands up against opponents who stigmatize victims of violence.

Remembering her own fear and desperation, Conley-Lepene says, “Anybody at any time could be faced with a crisis. If this helps one more person get to a safer place, then I have fulfilled my mission.”

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