Victim Services of Montgomery County

December 15, 2023 00:26:57
Victim Services of Montgomery County
Upper Merion Township Community Connections
Victim Services of Montgomery County

Dec 15 2023 | 00:26:57

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Show Notes

Chuck Kirlin sits down with Lynn Williams, Executive Assistant / Crises Intervention Support, Victim Services of Montgomery County

victimserices.org

1-888-521-0983

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Episode Transcript

00;00;00;00 - 00;00;25;20 Unknown Hello and welcome to this edition of Community Connections. I'm your host, Chuck Curl, and today we'll be discussing the crisis intervention, support of victim services of Montgomery County. And with us from the organization is the executive assistant. David Williams. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much, Chuck. Thank you for having me. Well, it's great for you to be here. 00;00;25;21 - 00;00;48;01 Unknown So, Lynne, give us a little bit of a background of yourself and how you got involved in victim services and what Victim Services is doing here in Montgomery County. Okay. Absolutely. So as you said, my name is Lynne Williams and I am the executive assistant at Victim Services Center, and I'm also a crisis intervention support counselor. And I have been there now roughly about ten years. 00;00;48;03 - 00;01;08;02 Unknown I came in a victim services center as a temp, so the original administrator was out on leave and I came in as a temp and I filled in for her and then she came back. And when she came back, we kind of split the shift together. And then she was like, You've got this. And she retired. And then I became the executive assistant. 00;01;08;02 - 00;01;26;12 Unknown So as the executive assistant, what I do is I do correspondence, I do grant writing. I'm a member of the fundraising committee and I'm also a crisis counselor. And what a crisis counselor is. That means that I counsel someone in the moment of their crisis when they call their hotline. I do not do the long term counseling, which we can talk about later. 00;01;26;18 - 00;01;45;12 Unknown So I love this job because I get to watch people when they're healing journey. I see them when they come in and the light has gone out of their eyes. And then after a couple times coming in and meeting me at the desk, I'll be like, Hey, how are you? And you can see the light coming back. And that is extremely rewarding. 00;01;45;13 - 00;02;08;26 Unknown Also, I find our clients extremely inspirational because these are people who manage to get up every day after something horrible has happened to them. And what we do at Victim Services Center is we try not to allow anyone to take this journey alone. We are a comprehensive crime victims agency. We have 224 hour hotlines. We have counseling, we have advocacy. 00;02;09;02 - 00;02;36;02 Unknown We have an education program. We have groups, support groups for people who have been sexually assaulted. We have support groups for parents of children who have been sexually assaulted. We have a child abuse treatment program. We also have how we also serve survivors of homicide to people have lost someone who has been murdered and we counsel them. All of the services that we do are free and confidential to our victims and our family. 00;02;36;09 - 00;02;56;19 Unknown And we have a very strong prevention education program which goes out and talks age appropriate to children. We just started in preschool all the way up through college. We also offer what is called mandated reporter training for people who work in child care so that you can become aware of the signs of abuse of a child is being abused. 00;02;56;21 - 00;03;18;12 Unknown Wow. You mentioned that people come in to where they coming in to. Victim services center is located at 325 Suite street. We're on the second floor. I will say this. There are no signs saying that we're there because we're protecting the confidentiality of the people. So basically what will happen is you'll come through the door. There's a little tiny sign. 00;03;18;13 - 00;03;39;16 Unknown You push the buzzer will allow you to come upstairs and then you'll if I'm there, your counselor will come out and meet you. So you're basically the first person to meet and greet? Yes, I am coming in. I am. So and that's getting back to what you find so fulfilling because you're seeing them beginning the journey and then how they're growing throughout the journey. 00;03;39;16 - 00;04;01;25 Unknown Yes, it's very, very true. I do meet people as soon as they come in. And then also part of my job as a crisis counselor is we do do accompaniment. So we accompany people to police departments as well as the courts, and as well as when someone has been sexually assaulted. One of the hospitals in the county will call us and we will go and we will meet that victim at the hospital. 00;04;02;02 - 00;04;31;23 Unknown We will sit there with that victim throughout the rape kit exam if they do a police interview. And then we will also offer them counseling as well. And how many counsels are usually on staff? At the moment, we have a complete staff of 17 people. We have three counselors. We have three interns, three educators. We have a volunteer coordinator, and then we have our admin team. 00;04;31;25 - 00;04;55;02 Unknown So all of our counselors either have all of our counselors have master's degrees in social work or psychology, and the majority of our staff have BS in science or art and our admin team combined. We've been at the agency over 17 years. Is agency state funded or federally funded? It's like you're saying the services are free. Yes. So we're so this is such a great question, Chuck. 00;04;55;02 - 00;05;22;14 Unknown Thank you for asking that. So basically, we rely on a lot of grants from an organization. They were called Pcar, which was Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. They've now changed their name to be Pennsylvania Coalition for Respect. And we we received grants from them. We also receive grants in their state run coalition. We received grants from Razza and VOCA, which are also agencies that fund us. 00;05;22;17 - 00;05;56;29 Unknown And then we receive money from foundations and then we receive money from townships, and then we have fundraisers where we are always looking for donors. yes. What would be some of the fundraisers that you would do so well coming up? We have our annual appeal, which we send out a letter every year at the end of the year just informing people about what we do, who we are, and asking them for money and then in March, we're doing an international women's event where we're going to have Dr. Tamera marie speak and we're expecting people to come and buy tickets to hear. 00;05;56;29 - 00;06;19;09 Unknown It's about empowerment for women and uplifting. And then in June we do our big fundraiser, which is Madumere, which is named after one of our founding mothers and we do that event and we have a silent auction. We'll have mystery bags, we'll have food. We usually do that at the William Penn Inn. And then next year, Victim Services Center will be celebrating 50 years. 00;06;19;11 - 00;06;36;09 Unknown Wow. So that's going to be a huge, huge, huge gala that we are going to do, which will be really wonderful. So please come out and support us. We're always looking for donors giving Tuesday is coming up. We would love for people to give and I can give information about that later if you like. Well, yes, because awareness is the big key. 00;06;36;10 - 00;06;59;23 Unknown Yes, it is. Absolutely. That's something that, as you know, when a victim comes in, there's trauma that's always involved and you see it firsthand. So trauma is something that we should not take lightly. No, we should not. And, you know, we try to get the awareness out there with our preventive education, because education is a big part of helping people prevent trauma. 00;06;59;25 - 00;07;18;29 Unknown When you're young, you make mistakes, like you put your drink down some liquor, put something in your drink. We try to educate young people about cyber bullying and what sexual harassment it is, all those different terms so that as they become adults, they will realize like, I need to set boundaries, I need to have better behaviors in that. 00;07;19;02 - 00;07;34;20 Unknown And so these are some of the things we do. And also to when someone is victimized by trauma, sometimes it takes away a lot of their spirit and their light. And what we try to do and what we aim to do is to try to give that back to them. And they can always reach out to us anonymously and just confidentially. 00;07;34;27 - 00;08;00;10 Unknown You can reach us on our website. You can call our hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn't matter what time if you don't speak English, not a problem. We have a language line. We can translate anything from Spanish to any third world country language. If you come into the office, we can set up a computer where you can see a visual and we can have an interpreter right there for you. 00;08;00;12 - 00;08;24;06 Unknown We're also working. We do have a few things in Braille, and we are also trying to work now on working with the government to set up a capacity building grant for those who are hearing impaired, because a lot of times if you're suffering from any type of disability that outside of the norm you become you're more likely to become a victim because, one, you can't communicate it. 00;08;24;08 - 00;08;52;19 Unknown And to people won't tend to hear you. You're almost invisible. Yeah. So it's very you know, it's very, very important work that we're doing with that community. Fantastic. Now that it's very impressive, you mentioned grant writing and that's something that you do that must be a challenge. It is very, very, very challenging because at this time a lot of their foundations have turned their attention away from victimization and they are looking at homelessness and food insecurity. 00;08;52;22 - 00;09;29;14 Unknown What they fail to realize is that a lot of people who have suffered some form of trauma, of victimization from a crime usually do end up homeless or with food insecurity. But they don't see that, and we do. So when we are left without foundations, we're looking for other ways to find donors. So we try to find grants that are we would love to have unrestricted, but a lot of times you end up writing grants for different programs, and the money that we need truly is for general operating, which means that we can just put that into the operation so that we can continue to provide our services to the community. 00;09;29;14 - 00;09;55;13 Unknown Lynn, I know you gave us a little bit of the background on the foundation of victim services, but you've been here before. I'm just curious of some of the evolution of your organization. So it's a services center. Thanks for asking. Chuck was started in 1974 by a group of women from Montgomery Community College. And what they found is that women who had been sexually assaulted were being revictimized by the courts, and they were like, this is unacceptable. 00;09;55;15 - 00;10;20;23 Unknown And most importantly, those women weren't being believed. And they stood up for them and said, hey, we believe you. So what they did was they started with our hotline, which is our most important asset, because that is how you get in touch with us. Everything happens through our hotline, which is 24 hours, 7 hours a day. In 1980, we became a comprehensive crime victims unit, not only serving women, but serving men serving children. 00;10;20;25 - 00;10;52;12 Unknown So, I mean, people who had lost loved ones to homicide, physical assault, elderly, A, B, So we became comprehensive. All of those services are still free and confidential. One of the biggest evolutions that we have had is that we were open during COVID. So if you think about COVID, it was an isolating disease. And if you think about that, you have trauma has already happened to you, and now you're feeling isolation or you're even worse trapped with your abuser, what do you do? 00;10;52;19 - 00;11;16;27 Unknown And that just brought about a lot of anxiety for a lot of people. So we began the state came up with Doxy, Me and Telehealth, which is a way that we could actually have video conferences with our clients if they felt secure in their home. That is a practice that we have continued on with today because sometimes people don't want to get off from work and then drive all the way into Norris Hall. 00;11;17;04 - 00;11;38;15 Unknown And so they can just open up their computer in a secure area of their home and still receive the services. And I think for me, as a member of this agency, that was so important because I felt like our clients, we were still there. We were still that lifeline for them. They weren't just left hanging. And just imagine being trapped with your abuser and not having anyone to talk about it. 00;11;38;20 - 00;11;59;20 Unknown I mean, one of the concerns was you use teachers as people to bring awareness for child abuse. Now, children are in school, right? They're at home learning on Zoom, possibly with the abuser. So all of those things, I was very, very glad that when we were able to have the COVID out there and just so that our clients could, you know, still be in touch with us, which was very, very important. 00;11;59;27 - 00;12;28;19 Unknown I mean, COVID was a bad thing, but it brought about a new evolution for us because we're still using that service today. Yeah. Do you find that you're getting more people using the video or are they coming in? It's physically. Originally it was like 80, 20 and now I think we're about 60, 40, 60% are coming in because one of the great things, Chuck, is about when you're in person and you're counseling someone, you can see that energy, you can see that body language. 00;12;28;22 - 00;12;48;21 Unknown And so a lot of clients sometimes do like to come in because they just like to have that safe space. You know, you're not in that environment at home. Maybe home could trigger a memory, something like that. And then when you're with us, it is a safe space and you're there with somebody who you trust and you feel that you can speak openly and freely, you don't have to worry about who's coming through the door. 00;12;48;29 - 00;13;07;13 Unknown I know the clients prefer to be in their homes because they're in a safe space. They are very secure and they feel very comfortable with it. So I'm just very happy that we can continue our services. We did continue them through the shutdown. While you mentioned safe space. And I think one thing that comes along with that is familiarity. 00;13;07;15 - 00;13;27;25 Unknown The people that you're with that you mentioned, I think there are 17 people that are working in the office. So some of these people have been there for a while and they've grown accustomed of their experience and they've been very successful at what they're doing. Yes. Is there any of your employees that come to mind that you see that, hey, they have been making such a great difference. 00;13;27;28 - 00;13;50;25 Unknown Our executive director, Maria Naama, she has been leading the agency for over 25 years, along with Liz House, who is our I.T. and human resource administrator. And I give Mary a lot of credit because it was a very difficult time to lead us through COVID. You know, everything around us was shutting down and we were allowed to remain open, which was great. 00;13;50;25 - 00;14;09;29 Unknown We were answering our hotline, but we were still concerned about our clients. So just the fact that we were able to provide services for our clients during that time. And then between Mary and our board, they came up with a hybrid schedule, which is what we're working on now. So we are required to be in the office at least two days a week. 00;14;10;00 - 00;14;24;18 Unknown And if you want to do more, you can and then you can do three days at home. And that works a lot for some of my staff because a lot of them are mothers as they hold down this full time job and wives. So that gives them a little bit of leeway trying to have a family and do this very stressful job. 00;14;24;21 - 00;14;48;00 Unknown So that's what we appreciate. And we're still holding onto our hybrid schedule now. So your clients do have the option of coming in or not coming to. Most of our groups, though, are still ran on to do okay. And the zoom that we run on that we use as very secure. How about the hotline is is that is there a home base for that or can that be sent out to other people? 00;14;48;00 - 00;15;11;16 Unknown Like, for instance, if you're working at home, are you able to answer calls? Okay, we have what so this long story short, before COVID, the we have an answering service. So the answering service would have all of our cell phone numbers. And prior to cell phones we had beepers, but that we had cell phones. And when COVID happened, you don't want a client to have your personal cell phone. 00;15;11;19 - 00;15;32;10 Unknown So the agency provided all of us with work phones and work laptops, which were secure, laptops that we could work on because client information has to be kept confidential. So what will happen now? Let's say that you need to call the hotline. If you call our hotline. Our answering service will answer. They will then transfer you to whichever person is on duty. 00;15;32;12 - 00;15;59;14 Unknown So we have volunteers who also take our hotline, but a staff member is always on duty, along with a staff supervisor. We also have we're known because we've had an increase in calls. We've hired what is known as to hotline consultants, and they help us out tremendously by taking the weekend shifts so that we can shift. Will consist of a6am Saturday morning to 9 a.m. Monday morning. 00;15;59;15 - 00;16;24;16 Unknown So they take that whole shift. Now, if they go out to an accompaniment to the hospital or the police station, then the staff on call will pick up the rest of the shift for them. You made a good point. I was curious about this, and I'm sure I'm curious if they've done any research. Do you seem to be getting a lot of calls early in the morning or late at evening when is there a specific time that you seem low now? 00;16;24;18 - 00;16;46;00 Unknown There are days where I've been on hotline and I've actually called the interview service and said it's my phone working. And they like, yes, when you haven't gotten calls and in their days were hotline I'll go bing, bing, bing. There have been times where I've gone out to the hospital twice in one day or I've gone to the hospital and the police station, and then the same with other members of my staff. 00;16;46;02 - 00;17;07;04 Unknown So it just depends. There's not really a time frame of when we get calls. But the most important thing is that we get the calls and that the calls are answered because that is the lifeline. And like I said, sometimes the calls are very difficult. If a call comes in and it's domestic violence, which we call DV, that's the jargon for the abbreviation is DV. 00;17;07;08 - 00;17;28;20 Unknown We will definitely hear what they have to say, but we don't. That is the one thing we don't deal with is domestic violence and we will refer them to either Women's Center or Loral House for counseling and things like that. And if someone does call the hotline and let's say what you need is out of our scope of being able to help you, We never, ever say no. 00;17;28;20 - 00;17;41;19 Unknown We say, okay, we have a very thick book where we will look up and try to find referrals because homelessness is something we don't do. So they will refer you to two one, one or your way home. Makes perfect sense. 00;17;41;19 - 00;17;52;25 Unknown One thing that I find very interesting and I think I just need a little bit of clarification is victim Services doesn't deal with domestic abuse. No. 00;17;52;27 - 00;18;19;15 Unknown And you would think they fall under the same umbrella. Can you explain why that. Okay. So yes, So we were originally started as a rape crisis center, which is sexual assault. And nine times out of ten when there is DV, which is domestic violence, there is a form of sexual assault. But in Montgomery County, you have two agencies that are very prevalent that deal with domestic violence, and that is Laura House, which provides housing. 00;18;19;18 - 00;18;43;15 Unknown And you have Women's Center, which helps with transitional housing. So I have personally have been called out by a police station. I've gone out it's been a lady who has been domestically abused. I'm not going to leave her. I will sit there and listen because eventually there will be say. But my main concern in those situations is that that person is going to be safe, that they're not going to return to their abuser. 00;18;43;23 - 00;19;03;00 Unknown So even though you're sitting there and you can treat them for the sexual assault, you will refer them for their counseling and any type of legal thing or PFA or any of those things, we will refer them out to Women's Center or Laura House. So we do not do domestic violence, but we will deal with sexual assault, which is rape. 00;19;03;07 - 00;19;26;03 Unknown We will deal with child abuse. We will deal with people who have been abused as children and now they're adults. People have had elderly abuse, ethnic intimidation, all of those things that can come to us and we'll deal with them. Our counselors will offer 20 sessions. So if you come and you fall within our parameters and we can help, you can get 20 sessions. 00;19;26;05 - 00;19;48;16 Unknown Children will be in counseling at age five and they get a year of sessions. Are they kids? What they do is they work with victims compensation programs. So let's say that you were physically assaulted in the street. You can get counseling for the physical assault and you can have an advocate help you with victims compensation, which is called the cap, to help you recoup some of the losses that you've had. 00;19;48;23 - 00;20;05;18 Unknown Our advocates are also the ones who go and sit in the courtrooms with our clients through their trials. We are not lawyers. We do not give legal advice at all, but we sit there as an extra support while they're speaking with their lawyers and while they're hearing their trials. We also will help them with their victim impact statement. 00;20;05;18 - 00;20;34;18 Unknown And what a victim impact statement basically is, is that's a chance for the victim's family to stand up and say how this crime has affected them and we can help them write their victim impact statement. So advocates will be there in court for that. Our advocates will help them with VICAP. And all of us are sexually assault trained counselors, which means that everyone who works at our agency knows how to answer the hotline and we all can do accompaniment to the hospital. 00;20;34;18 - 00;21;02;18 Unknown And like I said, that crisis training means that we're counseling you in that moment on the phone, or if we're with you in the hospital in that moment. We also have an immediate crisis response team. Three or four years ago, there was a shooting at the Thunderbird Lanes in East Norton with very shocked everyone in the community, including myself, because I Boulder and we went out and we spoke to the community and to the neighbors and offered our services to them. 00;21;02;18 - 00;21;24;24 Unknown Because what people fail to realize, Chuck, is that when trauma happens, it doesn't only affect the victim, it spreads throughout the family like a cancer. And so therefore, that's why we offer services to the whole family, because when that victim is going to need support, nine times out of ten, they're not going to be in our office. And you need someone around you that knows how to support you. 00;21;24;27 - 00;21;50;06 Unknown Well, you mentioned the 20 sessions that are allotted. What does this one session consist of? Is there a time basis on it or. That's up to the counselor. And that's sort of the nature of the crime. So the counselor can decide. Most of our sessions are an hour long and the counselors will do for an hour. The counselor, once you do an intake, so you will call the highway and say you fit the parameter. 00;21;50;08 - 00;22;09;00 Unknown Then we'll file a paperwork for you to have it intake. You'll have an intake. Ever go to the director of the supervisor of the rec services and then she'll decide which counselor you will be assigned. And then when you meet your counselor, then you will work out your counseling plan. That's perfect. Now, how about getting the word out? 00;22;09;00 - 00;22;27;13 Unknown Events. Are there specific events that are done on an annual basis that. Yes. So we can double back to do annual appeal, which is going to be coming out? We do at the end of the year, we do our big yellow, which is the Matty Mirror event that we also do in April. It's called Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is Sam. 00;22;27;15 - 00;22;51;03 Unknown Sorry, education does a huge push of just getting the word out into the community about sexual assault, sexual assault awareness, sexual harassment. Last year they did an event at the George Carver Center in Norristown called Ed Palooza, where they have a lot of vendors come out. They had yoga classes, they had aerobics instructors, people handing out brochures about their different agencies. 00;22;51;09 - 00;23;15;17 Unknown And it was really just a big free event for families to come out and just to know, to be aware that sexual assault does happen in the community. And like I said, next year is our 50th anniversary. So we're very excited about that. We love for people to come out and support us. And if you want to be part of our agency, you can be a volunteer or you can join our fundraising committee, which I am a member of. 00;23;15;17 - 00;23;36;03 Unknown I would love to have people come out and support us with that. And, you know, the way to get in touch with us is through our website and that is WW dot Victim Services Center dot org. All of our events are posted on our website are trainings are also posted on our website. If you want to be a volunteer, you can sign up there. 00;23;36;06 - 00;23;55;13 Unknown Our volunteers are also required to be sexual assault trained counselors. It's a 65 hour course. They come in, they take the course, we train them how to be hotline counselors. And like I said, that's just immediate. They don't do long term counseling. And, you know, it's a volunteer. So they pick and choose the shifts that they want to do. 00;23;55;16 - 00;24;18;19 Unknown So we love to have people come out like that. And if you want to donate, please also go to WW dot Victim Services Center That or because as I stated earlier you know sometimes we lose funding we've lost a lot of funding. We lost United ways because they turn their attention to homelessness and food insecurity. So yes please we love for you to donate. 00;24;18;19 - 00;24;38;21 Unknown We love private donors. Well, it seems like you have a lot of stuff going on. Are you one that sits down with a number of your colleagues and say, what are we going to do to plan for the future? Like, do you have any future goals set for you? So being on the planning committee, that is what we do and we see things happening over there. 00;24;38;23 - 00;25;06;04 Unknown Yeah, So we do plan things like we plan out the fundraising event because of the way we are regulated. Only certain members of our staff can fundraise. So it's myself, the executive director, and then we started a fundraising committee and then our board, which is all volunteer as well. We sit and we plan out events. So the event in March, which is with Dr. Tam and Marie, we plan that out as a fundraiser for our organization. 00;25;06;06 - 00;25;27;16 Unknown And the biggest event that we're working on right now will be Matty Miller for 2024, as well as the 50th anniversary. And that's what we're trying to do to get people to come out and to support us. And then we have annual annual appeal and giving. Tuesday is what we're giving, Tuesday be giving Tuesday is a national thing. 00;25;27;16 - 00;25;51;15 Unknown And I should have looked up the day of I don't remember the day giving Tuesdays where people just give to their favorite organizations. So I would love people to please give to Victim Services Center, but can be counted at our website and support our mission statement, which is to provide advocacy and counseling for all who have been affected by sexual violence and other crimes against the person, and to promote prevention and awareness in the community through education. 00;25;51;15 - 00;26;11;28 Unknown Because education is the key to change the future. It's very well said. Yes, I agree 100%. So someone watching this program and is looking for the services or even if they want to volunteer, I guess the best way to put it is how would they go about doing so? Our website and if you're looking for services, you can do our website. 00;26;11;28 - 00;26;33;16 Unknown We have an escape button on our website, which basically means that if you were a victim and you're afraid of someone seeing that you're trying to type something, we have an escape by making a push and it automatically takes you away from our website. Or you can call our hotline, which is 18885210983. Perfect. Well, then it's great having you as our guest here today. 00;26;33;23 - 00;26;57;02 Unknown Thanks so much. Lynn Williams has been our guest here today from the victim services of Montgomery County. From all of us here at UMG television, I'm Chuck Kirkland. Thank you for watching.

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