Rural communities respond to domestic violence

GUEST COLUMN

The following article is part three 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. one in three 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 1,872 victims of abuse (face-to-face) from Hays and Caldwell Counties. 1,050 of those were victims of domestic violence.

Frequently we hear of news stories focusing on how poverty, unemployment and substance abuse are devastating families and communities in rural areas. But as the number of domestic violence victims and services provided for families affected by domestic violence increase, rural communities struggle to find the resources they need to assist victims and strengthen their communities.

Last year HCWC served 312 victims of abuse in Caldwell County alone, of which 148 were children seen at our Child Advocacy Center. Violence and abuse are critical issues in both urban and rural communities throughout the United States. However, effects in rural communities are often worsened because of the limited access to resources for victims.

Often, clients who live in rural communities are likely to need housing, transportation, and public assistance. Due to geographic isolation and lack of support these challenges can be a barrier not only to getting out of the abusive living situation, but also to finding employment and becoming self-sufficient enough to leave the relationship.

Our agency continually works to find ways to reach people in isolated communities by providing outreach, public education at community events, and “off-site” counseling and advocacy appointments for rural residents of Hays and Caldwell. We’ve even recently added a Transportation Advocate to our staff. Our goal is for victims in rural areas to get the support they need, and getting community support is crucial. Both our San Marcos and Lockhart locations provide free and confidential counseling and advocacy services to women, men and children who are victims of abuse. Individual counseling can help identify abusive behavior patterns and help victims further explore options as well as learn ways to create healthy relationships in the future. Advocacy services include assistance filing for public housing, SSI, TANF, Medicaid, food assistance or other social services. Various community partners offer meeting spaces in smaller towns so that clients don’t have to travel all the way to San Marcos for services.

As a Legal Advocate, I travel to rural communities to meet with clients and provide assistance with filing for crime victims’ compensation, preparing victim impact statements, applications for protective orders, or to provide information regarding divorce and custody options. I also co-facilitate a monthly “virtual legal clinic” where attorneys from Texas Advocacy Project provide legal advice via webcam, as well as information on the legal filing processes - great for clients who may not be able to make a face-to-face legal consultation at an attorney’s office because of transportation or childcare issues.

HCWC also attends various community events in each of the smaller rural towns within Hays and Caldwell County and provides training, resources, and technical assistance to help build a network of support for rural victims. Staff members from our Lockhart office are part of the Caldwell County Family Violence Taskforce and work with members to host local events, including the upcoming 5th Annual Caldwell County Family Violence Awareness Walk in downtown Lockhart on Oct. 21 at 9 a.m.

We work with community members, schools, faith leaders, law enforcement and business owners in promoting awareness about domestic violence while building lasting partnerships. Recently, high schools in smaller towns such as Dripping Springs, Wimberley and Luling have reached out to partner with HCWC to bring awareness to domestic violence during football games. Community involvement has been detrimental in HCWC reaching rural residents. Whether through directly volunteering with clients, posting flyers around town or giving presentations, HCWC has been amazed at the response from our rural communities.

Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) offers free and confidential individual counseling, support groups and advocacy services to victims of family violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and child abuse who live, work or go to school in the Hays County and Caldwell County area. Another way you can be proactive in taking a stand against abuse and violence is to consider getting involved in YOUR community. Attend or become a sponsor to help support HCWC’s biggest fundraiser, our Annual Live and Silent Auction which will be held on Friday, May 5th. For more information, please call HCWC at (512) 396-3404 or visit www.hcwc.org.

Chantal Pierre, MSW and Legal Advocate in the Counseling & Resource Center at HCWC

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666