The Center for Safety & Change, Inc. (“the Center”) is a nonprofit agency whose mission is to provide critical services and support to women and all victims and survivors of gender-based violence and other crimes while working toward justice by creating social change. The Center is the sole provider of services to domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and all other crime victims in Rockland County, NY—there are no other resources for victims in the county. The Center is the sole domestic violence residential and non-residential services certified by NYS Office of Children and Family Services in Rockland County, NY (“Rockland”) and is Rockland’s only NYS Office on Victim Services designated Victim Assistance Program. In addition, all of the Center’s staff are certified and trained by the NYS Department of Health, all staff and volunteers are certified rape crisis counselors, and the Center serves as Rockland’s only Rape Crisis Program and operates Rockland’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner services. Finally, within the last four years, the Center became the largest non-profit provider of immigration legal services in the county, and the largest provider of family law services specifically for victims in the county.
The Center offers a comprehensive continuum of programs and services that are available in multiple languages to all victims, free of charge, regardless of age, citizenship, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, marital status, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. These services include, but are not limited to:
• Information and Referrals: information about the criminal justice process, information about victims’ rights, referrals to other victim service programs, and referrals to other services, supports, and resources;
• Advocacy and Accompaniment: victim advocacy/accompaniment to emergency medical care, victim advocacy/accompaniment forensic exams, law enforcement interview advocacy/accompaniment, individual advocacy, performance of medical forensic exam or interview, or medical evidence collection, immigration assistance, intervention with employer, creditor, landlord, or academic institution, childcare, transportation assistance, and translation/interpretation services;
• Emotional Support and Safety Services: crisis intervention, hotline/crisis line counseling, on-scene crisis response, individual counseling, support groups, therapy, and emergency financial assistance;
• Shelter and Housing Services: emergency shelter, transitional housing service, and relocation assistance; and
• Criminal and Civil Justice System Assistance: notification of criminal justice events, civil legal assistance in obtaining protection or restraining order, civil legal assistance with family law issues, immigration attorney assistance, prosecution interview advocacy/accompaniment, criminal advocacy/accompaniment, and other legal advice and/or counsel.
Over the last three months, the Center provided 7,919 services to 228 victims in the sexual trauma program and conducted 8 sexual assault forensic exams.
Some of the victims and survivors the Center worked with this month include:
- A 16-year-old child who is a victim of rape, which resulted in a pregnancy. She was in what she believed to be a relationship with a 23-year-old man. Once he found out about the pregnancy he tried to blindly take her in for an abortion and started verbally and mentally abusing her. Staff initially met with the client at her high school and have since met multiple times at both the high school and the Center's office. She has talked about the way she’s feeling with all the new changes coming her way. She has been practicing how to deal with and understand emotions, done safety planning, and talked about future goals and what can be done to achieve these goals. During our first meeting, she was very nervous and scared in regards to everything going on in her life. After a few weeks working together there has been a noticeable positive change in her attitude. She is working on creating a better future for herself and her child. In addition to emotional and mental supportive services, the Center has been able to provide necessities for the child such as a stroller, baby clothes etc. thanks to the donations we receive. The client has expressed how thankful she is for all the resources we’ve provided for her.
- A 10 year old girl who was sexually abused by her step-grandfather. The child's parent shared that child has been having nightmares, does not like to be alone, and feels sad often. The client has been coming in for weekly sessions and has been opening up about her feelings about family. Therapeutic play and creative art interventions have been utilized during sessions to help her process trauma. The therapist has also been working with parent on providing her information and discussing ways to support her child.
- An adult victim who had lived with her ex-boyfriend for two years. The client said that during that time, he verbally/physically/emotionally/sexually assaulted her. The client said that the last incident was the day before, when he sexually assaulted her, hit her in the head, and bit her. The client made a police report, and she was transported to the hospital, where she was met by the a Center advocate and a SAFE nurse. The client received complete evidence collection, prevention medications, and a comfort kit. The advocate provided information regarding the Center's 24/7hotline, OVS application, shelter, counseling, and therapy. The advocate provided crisis intervention, counseling, information and referrals, and safety planning.
In addition to providing individualized supportive services, the Center offers several support groups in various languages to help victims and survivors recover from the trauma they have endured. This reporting period, the Sexual Trauma Support Group for Adult Survivors continues to meet and serves as a safe space for survivors. Recent discussion topics in the group have included post-traumatic stress symptoms, boundaries, and advocating for oneself. Members in the group receive emotional support and provide support for their peers. At one meeting this month, a member expressed anxiety over going to the gynecologist for the first time since her assault. This member wondered if she was alone in her feelings, or if others had had similar experiences. Other members listened, validated, and normalized. The client was not alone.