Suddenly, it’s December! I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that this year has gone by incredibly quickly. The year-end seems like a good opportunity to give you an overview of our work here at HOPE Center and what we’ve accomplished.

HOPE Center works to create zero tolerance for sexual and domestic violence here in Rice County. We offer direct support to victims of violence, collaborative support to other organizations that serve victims, and educational support to the entire community.

Our services include a 24/7 crisis line for intervention services (800-607-2330), transportation, placement in local safehomes for adults and children in danger, accompaniment at evidentiary exams, support groups, and individual advocacy. We also supply information about victims’ rights and reparations, assistance with court remedies (such as Orders for Protection and Harassment Restraining Orders), accompaniment to civil and criminal court hearings as well as meaningful educational presentations to civic, school and community organizations.

HOPE Center also continues our work as a founding member of the Rice County Blueprint Team, one of the first multidisciplinary teams in the country that responds to domestic violence in a coordinated fashion. This interagency effort includes practitioners from 13 organizations ranging from the 911 Center, law enforcement, attorneys and the courts. This work involves connecting victims to advocacy to ensure the provision of immediate services.

This year, the impact of the pandemic presented a seemingly constant question as to how best to safely engage with our clients. There were also major disruptions in so many of the processes and systems with which we and our clients interact including the courts, the county and various service-related organizations. We developed new ways of working with clients and new ways of navigating the system while always focusing foremost on our clients’ well-being.

In spite of these challenges, we served 1,101 clients over a 12-month period and more than three-quarters of them were connecting with us for the first time. We provided assistance for victims of domestic violence and of sexual assault. We provided safety services, emotional support, referrals, translation services and assistance with the criminal justice system.

Looking ahead, we are currently working to secure funding for a couple of projects that would address critical client needs. One would assist in securing safe and affordable housing to help victims flee the violence occurring at home. The other would help purchase security items such as phones, data plans and surveillance cameras in an effort to maximize victims’ safety.

We are proud of the numbers of clients we were able to serve, the advocacy we were able to provide and the lives we were able to change. To hear the relief in someone’s voice when they know they don’t have to walk this path alone, when they find out we are still here, still providing advocacy, even when the rest of the world feels upside down. For so many of our clients, we are a constant in the midst of a chaotic storm.

We continue to provide critical support. We continue to provide life-saving intervention. We continue to provide HOPE.

Erica Staab-Absher is executive director of the HOPE Center. Reach the center at 507-332-0882.

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