‘What is HCWC and who do we serve?’
The following article is part one of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and we hope to educate our community on this very serious issue. 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Locally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse since 1978. Last year, HCWC served 1,877 victims of abuse (face-to-face) from Hays and Caldwell Counties. 1,024 of those were victims of domestic violence.
MELISSA G. RODRIGUEZ
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center is the name of the community organization started by a group of women back in 1978 who were looking for ways to connect during a different tumultuous time. It wasn’t too long after their first meeting that the phone started ringing with women asking for help to flee their abusive homes. Domestic violence literally called out for a place to do this important work in this community and these brave women answered the call. It wasn’t too long after that we received funding to create one of the first six shelters in the state of Texas, and we formally became the Hays County Women’s Center. At the time, domestic violence was rarely spoken about publicly and very few knew where to go for help. Our 24-hour HELPline, 512-396-4357 (HELP) became as important as 911 to those who sought safe refuge for themselves and their children. We also provide 24-hour hospital response through our HEARTeam to provide advocacy and support for those in need of emergency medical care.
Since then, we changed our name to the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center to fully identify our service area. Today, in addition to services for victims of family violence, we offer a sexual assault and abuse program, children’s advocacy center for child abuse victims, and violence prevention education. Recently, we added dating violence to our mission in recognition that domestic violence often begins much earlier. We also utilize “HCWC” to further reach out to ALL victims of abuse regardless of their gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. After many years of directly serving thousands of local victims of abuse, HCWC recognizes that our issues do not discriminate. All segments of our community are affected.
Domestic violence services offered at HCWC vary depending on the specific need of the individual seeking help. The McCoy Family Shelter offers 24-hour emergency shelter for individuals (and their children) leaving a dangerous home and seeking safety. Last year, we provided 7,057 days of shelter to 396 adults and children. We offer confidential, secure and free services such as advocacy (referrals to social services), legal advocacy (help with protective orders, criminal justice accompaniment), professional counseling (specialized services for adults and children), support groups, transportation and help accessing basic needs such as clothing, toiletries, food and other necessities. It’s also important to know that shelter is NOT only for those who don’t have financial resources but for those who are in danger, regardless of their resources.
Often, victims minimize their level of danger hoping for better outcomes. There are also individuals who are unsure about whether they are in an abusive relationship at all. HCWC’s largest program is our non-residential services provided through the Counseling and Resource Center where individuals are provided the same confidential, secure and free services. Last year, HCWC provided services to 691 adults and 202 child witnesses to domestic violence in the nonresident program. Our specially trained staff are here to help process their trauma and empower individuals to make decisions about their safety and well-being.
There are ways that YOU can become involved and help end domestic violence in YOUR community. It can be as simple as joining HCWC in spreading education and awareness about abuse by following us on social media and sharing educational content with your friends by using the handle: @HCWCenter on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram or by subscribing to our email list. You can also visit our educational website www.StopTheHurt.orgfor more education on abuse issues and resources. For more information about services, please call HCWC at 512- 396-3404 or visit www.hcwc.org
Melissa G. Rodriguez is HCWC’s Director of Community Partnerships