October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)

Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical abuse by an intimate partner? Last year, in Pennsylvania alone, there were 2,574 victims served in only one day.

What is DVAM?
DVAM was initiated nationally in 1987 and takes place every October. DVAM is a chance for everyone- victims, survivors, advocates, supporters and political leaders, to collaborate to end domestic violence for all. It also provides a time for survivors and supporters to tell their stories, and have their voices heard. 

What are the different forms of domestic violence?
Domestic violence can come in many different forms, and can often be difficult to recognize. Here are some of the most common types of abuse to look out for:

-Physical abuse: this can include hitting, kicking, punching, biting, pushing, strangulation, hair pulling, throwing objects, physically preventing a partner from leaving or forcefully making them go somewhere, unwanted sexual contact, the use of weapons to threat or injure.

-Verbal abuse: this can include yelling, screaming, and making demeaning comments about their partner’s looks, intelligence or worth.

-Emotional abuse: this can sometimes be very close to verbal abuse, but can include putting a partner down or calling them names, humiliating them in front of others, comments that make their partner have low self-esteem or self-worth, playing mind games or gaslighting.

-Financial abuse: 98% of abusive relationships involve financial abuse. This can include giving a partner an “allowance,” not allowing the victim access to their own money, running up debt or interfering with their credit, and interfering with a partner’s employment.

-DV in the LGBTQ+ Community: domestic violence happens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Some instances of domestic violence within our LGBTQ+ communities can include telling a victim that no one will believe them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, telling a victim that they deserve abuse, or threatening to out the victim.

What are some of the most common warning signs?
Incidents of domestic violence occur more frequently than people may realize, especially if they have never been personally affected. Understanding some of the most common signs of abuse can help us all become better allies to those that may be in an abusive situation. Here are some of the most common warning signs to know:

-Being put down by a partner (especially in front of others)
-Constantly worrying about making a partner angry or upset
-Making excuses for their partner’s behavior
-Partner exhibits extreme jealousy or possessiveness
-Victims may have unexplained bruises or injuries
-Victims may isolate away from family and friends
-Victims may present as depressed or anxious or have significant changes in mood and behavior

How can you be an ally?
It isn’t always easy to help victims of domestic violence, especially if they are not yet ready to seek assistance or reach out for help. There are some things you can do, though, to be a good friend or ally to someone in an abusive situation. Here are a few ideas:

-Provide emotional support: just being there to listen and offering a non-judgmental and friendly ear can do wonders for someone who is trying to process their own trauma
-Do not judge or criticize a victim for the choices they make
-Help them create a safety plan
-Offer to accompany a victim if they choose to seek services and don’t want to go alone
-Help them identify other parts of their support network, whether that be family, friends, or social organizations to assist with things like housing, legal aid, and food
-Encourage them to not isolate away from family and friends

What can you do to support WIN or other victim-based agencies?
There are always a number of things that you can do if you want to support your local victim services agency. Here at WIN, we are always in need of dedicated volunteers to assist us with things like answering our 24/7 emergency helpline, assisting clients in our emergency shelter, helping with public education, etc. You can also make a monetary donation or donate items from our wish lists. We try to update these frequently, as our needs can change pretty quickly. We post them on social media, our website, and publish them in our e-newsletters. Other ways you can show support include participating in fundraisers, following us on social media for education and updates, and sharing our posts!

If you would like more information on our agency, the free and confidential services we provide, or information on our volunteer program, please reach out by calling us at 717-264-3056.

Volunteering at WIN

“The heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Volunteering in the local community is an activity that some people really enjoy. As a victim-centered agency specializing in assisting survivors of intimate partner violence, we often rely on our volunteers to help us out.

Volunteering at WIN can be a really rewarding way to serve your community and some of your neighbors that may need it the most.

“Knowing that you’ve helped a family have a safer life, helped a victim get justice, or helped a client get services and/or a job makes it a very worthwhile experience,” says one of our long-time volunteers, Lucy.

WIN offers a multitude of volunteer options, ensuring that there is something to fit everyone’s schedule. Our opportunities include, but are not limited to, helping to answer calls on our 24-hour hotline, assisting at community events, coming to monthly shelter events or providing support to shelter groups, picking up groceries for shelter, admin activities, and everything in between! We are also always open to new ideas if one of our volunteers has an idea or special talent that they can use. 

We offer a comprehensive training course twice a year for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer. This training provides our volunteers with the knowledge and skills to feel confident in assisting survivors of violence.

Being a WIN volunteer is not only a benefit to our clients, but many times, also to our volunteers.
“I enjoy volunteering at WIN for many reasons. The staff is very appreciative for the services the volunteers provide. The staff is understanding and flexible, they work with you if something coms up and you need to adjust your volunteer routine. Giving a little time and effort back to the community each week through volunteering makes me feel good,” says one of our volunteers, Carl.

If you are interested in becoming a WIN volunteer, or would like more information on our upcoming training that begins September 20, please send an email to jennaf@winservices.org. We are looking forward to our upcoming class and we would love to have you join us!

WIN Service Highlight- Emergency Helpline

Did you know that 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men, have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner? Oftentimes, one of the first ways victims reach out for help is by calling a victim helpline.
“’At any given moment you have the power to say this is not how the story is going to end,’ is a quote from Christine Mason Miller. The helpline is the start of the changing of the story. This is often the first number the victim calls,” said WIN Direct Service Manager, Eric Williams.

WIN has been providing helpline services to our community since 1976 when a groups of concerned citizens banded together to form a rape crisis hotline for the area. Since then, our agency and services have grown to meet the needs of our community, but our 24/7 helpline remains one of the cornerstone services of our agency. Last year, WIN employees and volunteers answered 1,583 hotline calls from victims in their time of crisis. All calls that come in are answered by a caring advocate or volunteer, and they are always confidential.

We oftentimes find ourselves assisting victims on the helpline with things to help keep them safe, like safety planning. A safety plan is made to reduce risk when there is a potential threat of harm. Safety plans can change, and every safety plan is different based on the victim’s individual circumstances. We also assist victims on the helpline by giving them information on our services, such as empowerment counseling and legal assistance. We give them all the needed information to take the next steps on their journey from victim to survivor. In dire situations, when a victim needs to escape imminent danger quickly, they will call our helpline and get a referral for our emergency shelter.

Another way our helpline is utilized is by law enforcement and hospitals. An officer can call us at any time if they are responding to a situation and the victim needs assistance. Likewise, hospital staff can reach out to us if a domestic or sexual assault victim is present in the hospital. We can then assess the situation and talk to them on the phone or go into the hospital and meet with them directly.

The big takeaway is that our helpline is one of our most important services and tools for victims in need. We can assist them in numerous ways and help set them off on their path of living abuse free.

We are always looking for new caring helpline volunteers with a passion for helping those that need it most. If you, or someone you know, would be an ideal fit for volunteering in this capacity, please reach out to shannond@winservices.org. We have a new volunteer training session beginning on Sept. 20, 2022.

Summertime Digital Safety Tips for Parents

Most kids look forward to summer break. For many, it’s a time for family fun, vacations, swimming, etc., but it also leaves room for kids to spend more time on their digital devices.

According to UNICEF, “Some 80% of children in 25 countries report feeling in danger of sexual abuse or exploitation online. As children embrace more digital platforms, they too may self-generate sexually explicit imagery. And though these images might be intended for an age-appropriate relationship, they can end up widely shared without consent. Sometimes, trusted adults solicit children to share imagery. For a child victim, this may result in social isolation, mental health issues, substance abuse, self-harm or suicide, as well as an increased likelihood of exhibiting abusive behaviors themselves in adulthood.”

There are ways you can help set boundaries in an effort to keep kids safe. Here are a few examples:

  • Set some ground rules for internet usage. Examples of this could include: never posting personal information such as addresses or phone numbers on social media channels, use secure passwords for any digital logins and keep them secure, do not use location check-ins or geo-tagging as it could identify places you frequent when you are away from home.
  • Be open and honest. It’s important for kids to understand that nothing is truly anonymous or temporary. A lot of social media or chat apps have these features, but pictures and text sent this way can still be used by people with bad intentions.
  • Use parental controls when needed. Even for the most educated and tech-savvy kids, parental controls may still be a good option to ensure parents can keep an eye on things or add extra protection to apps that may be questionable.

In an article from BlueCross BlueShield, “The National Cyber Security Alliance offers this general recommendation about making online safety a priority: Don’t let concerns about what might go wrong stand in the way of letting your family explore the vast virtual world. If we, the adults, are educated about risks and employ smart monitoring tools, our kids will be more likely to use technology safely and come to us for advice if they run into anything.”

One helpful tool for all families is a checklist, developed by the Family Online Safety Institute, that can help digital users think about what their posting, and how it will reflect upon them. The checklist can be found here.

Overall, it’s important to implement boundaries and have honest conversations with children and young adults about the do’s and don’ts of social media and internet safety.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Did you know that on a global scale, human trafficking profits are an estimated $150 BILLION per year? Of that, approximately $99 billion comes strictly from sex exploitation.

Incidents of human trafficking are widely underreported, so getting exact statistics can be challenging. According to the Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking, “In 2018, Polaris worked on 10,949 cases of human trafficking reported to the Polaris-operated U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. These cases involved 23,078 individual survivors; nearly 5,859 potential traffickers and 1,905 trafficking businesses. Human trafficking is notoriously underreported. Shocking as these numbers are, they are likely only a fraction of the actual problem.”

There are many myths surrounding human trafficking and what it really is. By definition, “human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”

One of the biggest myths is the belief that trafficking involves the transport of an individual or group of individuals from one place to another, or across state or international borders. Human trafficking can happen all within the boundaries of a victim’s state, city, neighborhood, or even in their own home.

Recognizing the signs of a victim in a human trafficking situation isn’t always easy either. A few distinguishable signs of a trafficked individual are: works long hours or maintains an unusual schedule, they are unpaid, paid very little or only receive payment through tips, they are not given breaks, they seem anxious/paranoid, they show signs of poor health or hygiene, they aren’t in control of their own money or finances, and they often have very limited personal possessions.

Human trafficking victims come from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and personal circumstances. There are, however, certain things that make certain people more susceptible to being lured into a trafficking situation. For example, runway or homeless youth, people that have experienced previous traumas (such as domestic abuse or sexual assault), and members of the LGBTQ community are just a few groups identified as more at-risk for getting recruited into a human trafficking situation.

Victims of trafficking are recruited a number of ways. One of most common ways younger victims come in contact with a trafficker is through social media, parties, and popular locations like the mall or shopping centers. Another tactic used is the promise of romantic relationships. The trafficker will engage in a romantic or physical relationship with the victim and then force them into commercial sex. Other commonly used methods are online ads looking for “models,” the promise of wealth and financial security, and by having their current victims recruit their friends or acquaintances.

If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, or find out what you can do to help, please visit any of these online resources:
-PACT (Parents Against Child Trafficking): https://bit.ly/3asJ2nj
-Polaris Project: https://bit.ly/3asJgLb
-dosomething.org: https://bit.ly/2tDugtr
-humantraffickinghotline.org: https://bit.ly/2RCNQxN