2012-02-16 / Local & State

WIN Striving To Help Abuse Victims

Local organization in existence since 1970s
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Headlines across the nation are often filled with stories of sexual assault and domestic violence. Just like the nation and the commonwealth, Fulton County is no stranger to such tragedy.

Women In Need (WIN) was founded in the mid-1970s with the purpose of serving victims of domestic violence in both Fulton and Franklin counties. Evolving and expanding with the times to meet the current needs of society, the organization continues to strive to create awareness and educate the people regardless of age or socioeconomic standing.

Eric Williams, Fulton County WIN services manager, pointed out educating residents about the topics of sexual and domestic abuse as well as available local services remain high priorities.

“These services are here regardless of where you live,” said Williams. “They are not just limited to the county seat of Mc- Connellsburg. There’s no reason to drive to Washington or Franklin county for help.”

All services are free and confidential and range from victim and family counseling to court accompaniment. During the 2009-10 fiscal year, WIN assisted 311 victims and their families here; provided 1,654 hours of counseling; answered 242 calls to their hotline; obtained 33 new clients for legal representation; and local volunteers logged 771 hours.

“We’re not just about protection from-abuse orders and legal advice,” Williams stated, although two attorneys remain on staff to help with such matters in addition to divorce, child custody and child support. Other issues such as assisting individuals signing up for Social Security and disability payments for male and female victims of assault and abuse can also be obtained through WIN.

Williams noted such services are key, especially for individuals who may be in an abusive relationship where their significant other controls the purse strings. That control may also include put-downs, extreme jealousy of friends and family and can spin into physical and sexual abuse.

In hopes of aiding victims of sexual assault, WIN has established a sexual assault response team (SART) in Fulton County. Consisting of a sexual assault nurse examiner, a counselor/advocate and law enforcement officials, SART provides care to victims of sexual assault that are 13 years of age or older. As a follow up to an initial forensic exam and collection of pertinent evidence, a victim can receive emotional support and information throughout the process and speak firsthand with an officer about the assault.

“It’s not just happening here,” Williams said. “Abuse is a serious issue across the state whether it’s verbal or physical.”

For individuals who may not have access to an automobile, Williams reminded residents a 24-hour hotline is available by calling 800-621-6660. Furthermore, counseling or a consultation is available through WIN’s McConnellsburg office and over the phone. A female counselor is available on Mondays in addition to Williams being full time at the office daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s just a creative means of being able to speak with someone,” Williams said of counseling over the telephone as well as accepting walk-ins. “We afford people the opportunity to come and talk privately and move at their own pace ... . We want to empower the client, not tell them what to do.”

More information on WIN can be obtained online at www.winservices.org or by calling 717-485- 5840.

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