When Karen Baker became the new Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape on March 1 2018, she set a goal to visit each rape crisis center in the Commonwealth to learn more their communities and the unique work being done at each location.
Over the next several months, we will highlight where Karen has been and what she is learning at each center.
WOAR-Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence
Karen met with Monique Howard, Executive Director of WOAR - providing sexual assault services for Philadelphia County on July 16. WOAR has an excellent and dedicated team providing a variety of counseling, advocacy, education, outreach and other services throughout the county. WOAR and partners have recently participated in trainings to create a multidisciplinary SART Team for Philadelphia. They are excited that the National Sexual Assault Conference, hosted by PCAR, will be in Philadelphia in August.
Women's Center of Beaver County
Karen visited The Women's Center of Beaver County on June 4 to meet with several staff and therapy dog, Bailey. They provide counseling and therapy for adults and children in a variety of settings and provide 24-hour on-call supportive services to the community including local schools, jail, and hospital. In addition to more traditional advocacy, counseling, and prevention education activities, they also offer experiences such as equine therapy, gardening, and yoga to facilitate healing and wellness.
YWCA Victims' Resource Center
Karen visited YWCA Victims' Resource Center serving McKean County on May 23. They have a strong and cohesive team who are passionate about the mission, remain flexible to address whatever needs arise, and cover for one another as needed. They have a particularly effective relationship with the local hospital that has a strong SANE program. VRC continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of the beautiful rural communities in McKean county.
A Safe Place
Warren and Forest counties
Karen visited A Safe Place serving Warren and Forest counties on May 23. They provide a wide range of services and resources, and are deeply connected to, and respected by, the communities they serve which cover a large geographic rural area in north western Pennsylvania. They have at least ten safe locations where they can meet with survivors. The center in Warren is conveniently located adjacent to many other social services and is on a local bus route. Executive Director, Terri Allison, has recently been appointed to join the PCAR Board of Directors and serve as Chair of the Public Policy Committee.
Karen visited PPC serving Venango County on April 12. They provide counseling, support, advocacy, and shelter for victims of all types of crime. They also provide training and support to law enforcement, schools, and other community partners. Staff is looking forward to moving to a brand new building in Franklin sometime in the summer.
Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County
Karen visited Crisis Shelter in Lawrence County on April 12. They have a large and beautiful center and dedicated staff that provides counseling, advocacy, housing, and support to victims of all crimes; and education, prevention, and outreach to the community. On May 17, they are sponsoring an all-day training with Mark Wynn on "Domestic/Sexual Violence Intervention, Effective Investigation, Community Collaboration & Response."
Centre Safe Victim Outreach Intervention Center
Karen visited VOICe serving Butler County on April 11. They are a comprehensive center serving victims of all types of crimes. For sexual assault victims and their loved ones, VOICe provides counseling for adults and children, hospital accompaniment, legal, medical and systems advocacy, transitional housing, and more. In addition, they provide a wide range of outreach and prevention education in schools, universities, and other community settings. They enjoy strong working relationships with many key partners and leaders throughout the county.
Karen visited Centre Safe in State College, serving Centre County on March 20. She met with Executive Director, Anne Ard and several key staff who described an array of services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and their loved ones. They are very well integrated in the community and enjoy strong collaborative relationships with the University, police department, Children's Advocacy Center, county corrections, and other local partners. They provide innovative prevention programs in schools and other settings, involving student athletes; and sponsor a Peace Camp that provides education and leadership to prevent bullying behaviors.
A Way Out
Karen visited A Way Out serving Potter County in North Central Pennsylvania on March 1. The team of experienced staff and dedicated volunteers provides a range of services including support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, legal advocacy, groups, training for first responders, and education to schools and other community partners. During the past several years they have expanded their community outreach activities and have become more visible and integrated into all facets of the community.
Victim Assistance Center at YWCA York
Karen visited the Victim Assistance Center at YWCA York on February 19. They have many different programs and locations from which to serve the comprehensive needs of victims throughout York county. In addition to all the core services for survivors and families, they have also been incorporating mindfulness techniques and other trauma-informed activities. Due to a generous grant from Wellspan Health they have opened a trauma-informed yoga center that is enjoyed by survivors, staff, and general community members. Victim Assistance Center is providing ongoing community education to local campuses and other groups.
YWCA of Greater Harrisburg
Karen visited the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg on February 14, meeting with CEO Mary Quinn and other staff. Their Violence Intervention Prevention Services serves Dauphin and Perry counties. They have an impressive array of services including hotline, training, advocacy, accompaniment, housing, legal services, visitation center, day care, services for victims of human trafficking, services for veterans, community education and prevention programs, and more.
YWCA Carlisle- Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Services of Cumberland County
Karen visited YWCA Carlisle - Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Services of Cumberland County on February 1. They have a beautiful office with comfortable meeting rooms for adults and children. The staff is growing and re-building and has a wide range of expertise and skills including advocacy, counseling, prevention education, volunteer management, and support for local colleges. They provide services and trainings in many different settings including schools, colleges, prisons, nursing homes, and funeral homes. They have strong working relationships with other local systems including law enforcement, SANE nurses, and Child Advocacy Centers. Let's join them in September as YWCA Carlisle celebrates it's 100 year anniversary with a public block party!
The Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Centers
Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties
Karen visited The Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Centers (SARCC) in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties on January 24. They provide a wide range of advocacy, counseling, therapy, art therapy, and prevention services to the communities in both counties. Many of the staff have been with the center for many years and have established strong community partnerships. SARCC demonstrates a strong commitment to children’s services, trauma-informed environments, and anti-oppression work.
The Abuse Network
Mifflin, Juniata, and Huntingdon Counties
Karen visited The Abuse Network in Lewistown, serving Mifflin, Juniata, and Huntingdon counties on January 15. They have a close-knit team, many of whom have long tenure with the center. They have found efficient ways to use technology to increase their accessibility and responsiveness throughout the three counties. Rumor also has it that they have the best open house in town, each December!
Citizens Against Physical, Sexual, and Emotional Abuse
Elk and Cameron Counties
Karen wrapped up her 2018 tour of centers with a visit to Citizens Against Physical, Sexual, & Emotional Abuse (CAPSEA) serving Elk and Cameron counties on December 19. They are a comprehensive center with 13 cross-trained staff providing a variety of services to the community including advocacy, counseling, shelter, legal services and a donation center. They do a lot of work in the local schools and work with other service providers in and around the two counties. Executive Director, Joanne (Billie Jo) Weyant, is trained in Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) and was instrumental in organizing the Pennsylvania Local Group of TIR facilitators. In October 2018, this group officially became the first recognized local group in North America.
Victim Services, Inc.
Cambria and Somerset Counties
Karen visited Victim Services, Inc. serving Cambria and Somerset Counties on December 17. They are in a strong growth period – significantly increasing their budget and staff during the last few years. Even more importantly, they are serving many more victims, and many more types of victims than previously. They have grown in all areas – counseling, outreach, grant writing, and more. They enjoy strong relationships with key community partners such as schools, CAC’s, police, SART Teams, District Attorney, and prisons. They have also made improvements to office locations in both counties. The entire team is very upbeat, motivated, and passionate about all the ways they are helping people and strengthening the communities they serve.
Clarion, Jefferson and Clearfield Counties
Karen visited Passages on December 3. With Executive Director, Marlene Austin and Legal Advocate, Robin McMillen as tour guides, they visited the programs in Clarion, Jefferson, and Clearfield counties. Passages is expanding to meet the needs of the communities they serve. They offer services to children, teens, and adults in a variety of settings as well as prevention programs. They have an excellent and cohesive staff and maintain strong relationships with community partners. After visiting the three Passages offices, we toured the Clearfield County CAC and met with their staff and District Attorney, William Shaw
Abuse and Rape Crisis Center
Karen Baker visited the Abuse and Rape Crisis Center in Bradford County on November 14. They provide counseling, advocacy and accompaniment, support groups, trauma therapy for adults and children, emergency safe housing, systems advocacy, violence prevention programs, and community education and awareness. They are growing, remodeling the center, and adding staff. Recently, they received grants to provide suicide prevention training and Strengthening Families program. The Abuse and Rape Crisis Center will soon be celebrating its 40th Anniversary.
Karen visited Survivors Inc. in Adams County on November 9. They provide a variety of critical services for sexual assault and domestic violence victims and families throughout the county. They have seen a marked increase in the number of survivors seeking sexual assault services of late - partly due to local and national events in the news; and also due to the ongoing community outreach and education of their three-person prevention team. Survivors Inc. also provides therapy for both adults and children; and opened a legal center, staffed by two attorneys, a paralegal, and a legal advocate.
Karen Baker visited the Blackburn Center in Westmoreland County on November 8. She met staff, visited with Executive Director, Ann Emmerling, and toured the Center which is co-located with other social service agencies. The Blackburn Center is very well respected in the community and provides a wide variety of comprehensive services to survivors and families; and strong advocacy on their behalf. They provide an increasing amount of prevention education to community groups and have especially strong partnerships with local Universities.
Karen visited HAVEN of Tioga County on November 7. They have offices in three locations within the county, including one at Mansfield University, where they have a strong partnership. They provide a variety of services throughout the county including advocacy, counseling, prevention education, and legal services. The main office is warm and artistic and the staff spend time together each week sharing a meal, an audio book, or a hike. I enjoyed the home-made soup and cake, as well as conversation, during my visit.
Helping All Victims in Need (HAVIN)
Karen visited Helping All Victims In Need (HAVIN) in Armstrong County on October 30. They are located in an historic home and have a wonderful photo of Suffragettes marching in front of it in the early 1900's. HAVIN provides many excellent services to the community including counseling and advocacy, support groups, education, a co-ed shelter, and expert court testimony. They are one of only two centers in the state to house a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and also manage a large thrift shop in town.
Alice Paul House
Karen visited the Alice Paul House in Indiana County on October 12. This center provides comprehensive services and is well-respected in the community. They have an exceptionally dedicated and talented staff that is cross-trained for sustainability and flexibility. Their offices are in a temporary location downtown while they are preparing to break ground on a brand new building in the spring. The staff at Alice Paul House are led by Executive Director Audia Boyle who recently joined the PCAR Board of Directors. The photo is of a beautiful mosaic in the front lobby symbolizing the beauty and reorganization that can come from broken pieces.
For more information about the Alice Paul House, visit alicepaulhouse.org.
Network of Victim Assistance
Karen visited Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) in Bucks County on September 22 and toured their Jamison office. NOVA offers a wide array of creative programs and activities for all age groups. In addition to counseling, advocacy, and prevention services in three locations in the county, they also coordinate the forensic nurse program for local hospitals and manage the Child Advocacy Center functions for the county.
For more information about NOVA, visit https://www.novabucks.org.
Victim Services Center of Montgomery Co., Inc.
Karen traveled to Victim Services Center of Montgomery County, Inc. on September 22. When she participated in the center’s full-staff meeting. She learned more about the center’s many services and prevention programs; and their work with numerous schools, hospitals, and law enforcement organizations in the county. The center manages a robust volunteer program and organized 31 community events last year. VSC recently was selected to be the recipients of a matching endowment fund program that raised over $100,000.
For more information about Victim Services Center of Montgomery Co., Inc., visit http://www.victimservicescenter.org/.
SPHS Center STTARS Program
Washington and Greene counties
On June 29, Karen visited SPHS Center STTARS Program serving Washington and Greene Counties. She met with Joanna, Kellie, Rachel, Kristen, and Haley. Their program is part of a larger healthcare, behavioral health, and social service provider network that meets the needs of clients in a holistic and integrated way. They have recently developed a program serving individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Even with limited resources, the staff successfully balances multiple demands including advocacy, services, funding, reporting, and community outreach.
Crime Victims Council of Lehigh Valley, Inc.
Karen learned about the community outreach efforts taking place at Crime Victims Council of Lehigh Valley, Inc. during her visit on May 30. Executive Director Suzanne Beck highlighted a fundraising campaign CVC organizes in which the staff sells roses at area college graduations. They will hold a conference on Human Trafficking on June 27.
For more information about the Crime Victims Council of Lehigh Valley, visit cvclv.org.
Women's Resources of Monroe County, Inc.
Karen traveled to the Delaware Water Gap on May 30 to meet with Women’s Resources of Monroe County, Inc.’s Executive Director, Lauren Peterson. Peterson, a member of the PCAR Board of Directors provided a tour of the center’s office and shelter which were designed and furnished with a trauma-informed perspective. Staff at the center also highlighted the community support they receive for their events throughout the year.
For more information about Women’s Resources of Monroe County, Inc., visit www.wrmonroe.org.
Karen continued her PA center visits on May 23 with a stop in downtown Lancaster where she met YWCA Lancaster staff to learn about some of their great initiatives such as adding a sexual assault counseling center and creating affordable housing units. The center recently hosted their 20th Race Against Racism, and they organize the Keys for the City program which places decorated outdoor pianos throughout the city.
For more information about YWCA Lancaster, visit ywcalancaster.org.
Transitions of PA
Union, Snyder, and Northumberland counties
Transitions of PA hosted Karen on May 4. She met with Executive Director and PCAR Board Member Susan Mathias and participated in the center’s staff meeting. She also learned about a number of the center’s projects including their expansion into new office space and their partnership with Susquehanna University as part of an Office on Violence Against Women Campus Grant.
For more information about Transitions of PA, visit www.transitionsofpa.org.
Crime Victim Center of Erie County, Inc.
Karen visited Crime Victim Center of Erie County on April 26-27, attending the center’s annual Speaker Series which featured Tommy Williams and Erin Merryn. She also participated in the center’s annual conference making the opening remarks and met with community leaders including board members, the Chief of Police Dan Spizarny, District Attorney John Flynn and Senator Daniel Laughlin at a special reception following the conference.
For more information about Crime Victim Center of Erie County, visit www.cvcerie.org.
Center for Victims
Karen recently traveled to Center for Victims in Pittsburgh, PA where she met with Laurie McDonald, CEO, Tracey Provident, Chief Program Officer, as well as other senior staff. She learned about their innovative counseling, soon-to-open interactive trauma exhibit and their canine advocacy programs.
For more information about Center for Victims, visit www.centerforvictims.org.
Women's Services, Inc.
While visiting with staff from Women’s Services, Inc. on April 20, Karen learned about the staff’s involvement in the local school districts at all grade levels and the work the center is doing in prisons.
For more information about Women’s Resources, Inc., visit www.womensservicesinc.com.