berg

Berg

Rumors of Survivors demise are greatly exaggerated. It has a new Executive Director, an (almost entirely) new Board of Directors, and an experienced staff, all of whom are fully committed to the organization’s mission: providing comprehensive services and advocacy for those affected by domestic violence or sexual assault, and providing education about and promotion of non-violence in the community. The new Interim Executive Director is Elizabeth Meighan, previously the Director Human Resources and Risk Management for the United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg and Philadelphia.

Survivors began in September 1982 when a group of local women came together to discuss and support one another as a result of their individual experiences with domestic violence. The recurrent theme was one of survival. The group formalized and chose the name Survivors to honor that theme in their work together. Following the initial gathering, a needs assessment was conducted among human service agencies and related professionals. At that time, during a 12-month period, 759 women came to those agencies seeking help from domestic violence. Recognizing an unmet need, the volunteer group founded Survivors Incorporated and applied for tax exempt status as a nonprofit organization.

At this point, the first training for volunteer advocates and hotline workers was completed by 47 community members, both men and women. June 1983 marked the implementation of the 24-hour hotline. The Board of Directors decided in December of 1985 to extend its services to include victims of sexual assault in collaboration with the district attorney’s office. Additional training on sexual assault issues was offered to staff and volunteers. Survivors then became a member of the local Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) policy board as a result of that collaboration, setting the stage for increased capacity and growth. Since, 1985, Survivors has been funded by the Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence (PCADV); ten years later, Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape (PCAR) also became a funder.

Collaboration continues to be one of the strengths of Survivors, from its beginnings as a grassroots organization to its more formalized partnerships of today. Survivors could not exist without the ongoing and generous support of the community and the cooperative relationships that ensure its success, including those with Gettysburg Hospital, the criminal justice system, and the local human services agencies, just to name a few. In a time of change and growth, Survivors will continue to meet the needs of those affected by domestic and sexual violence in our community.

Survivors provides the following services: a 24-hour hotline 717-334-9777 provides crisis counseling, safety planning, and arrangements for counseling, medical and legal accompaniment, and other referral services; supportive individual counseling helps clients deal with the effects of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking; support groups for adults, children, and significant others to help with safety planning, support, and new coping skills; emergency shelter services and bridge housing for those who are eligible; legal advocacy to help filing requests for Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders with accompaniment to legal services and the courthouse; medical accompaniment at local hospitals for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking.

These services are confidential, and free to women, men, and children. Advisors’ staff is bilingual (Spanish) and bicultural.

Survivors also offers Community Education focused on violence prevention. Where We Live is a research-based primary prevention program that provides parents and other caring adults with the opportunity to discuss safety and boundaries with their children, identify bystander behaviors that will help keep children safe, increase knowledge about child sexual abuse, and build skills to intervene to protect children. It emphasizes the responsibility of adults to keep children safe and to prevent child sexual abuse. Adults must build the skills to talk to other adults about inappropriate behavior, and to intervene to keep children safe and prevent child sexual abuse.

The Expect Respect program is a series of three classroom sessions for middle- and high-school youth covering dating violence and sexual assault (Session One), sexual harassment (Session Two), and healthy relationships (Session Three). The sessions are designed to engage students in activities and discussion with their peers. The goals are to increase awareness, stimulate dialogue, and help young people increase their confidence in taking action to prevent abuse and harassment on campus and in their personal relationships.

The Red Zone program is named for the first six weeks of first-year students’ college life, when students are at high risk for sexual assault and violent crime. Young women ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault; 95 percent of violent campus crimes are alcohol or drug related.

Educate! is a presentation for graduating high-school seniors, both girls and boys, focused on personal safety, bystander intervention, what to do if you are victimized, and how to help a friend who is a victim.

Survivors has a Wish List of items to be used at Claudia House, the emergency shelter, or by clients. Please visit Survivors’ website at http://enddvsa.org/partner-with-us/#Wishlist.

Mark Berg is a community activist in Adams County and a proud Liberal. His email address is MABerg175@Comcast.net.

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