Thursday, October 21, 2021

County to shine light on domestic violence

Grant awarded to assist survivors

BELLEFONTE — Centre Safe and Centre County are shining a light on domestic and relationship violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October. They want victims to know they are not alone.

During the first full month of fall, the county courthouse will be lit up in purple to bring awareness to the matter.

Additionally, streetlights in Bellefonte and State College will shine purple, and the Gazebo at Fountain Park in Millheim will be strung with purple lights.

This comes on the heels of an announcement by Centre Safe in regards to a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, which will help provide legal services to county survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

“We want anyone who is experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence or child abuse to know that they are not alone. There is a whole community here to support them,” said Dawn McKee, special projects coordinator of Centre Safe, during a Centre County board meeting on Sept. 28 in which the commissioners declared October “Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Centre County.”

Centre Safe will also be displaying the Empty Place at the Table exhibit at the

four YMCA of Centre County branches.

The exhibit features a place setting representing each of the 14 victims killed as a result of domestic violence in Centre County from 1998 to 2017.

Behind each of the victims’ place setting is information about their homicide. McKee said that all too often domestic violence results in death, and it creates a painful void for families and friends whose loved one was murdered. She said each victim had family and friends left behind. Each one held a place at the table in their family’s homes.
She said their murders now leave an empty place at those tables.

“The Empty Place at the Table exhibit is a visual reminder of the deadliness of domestic violence and is a catalyst for social change. We hope this exhibit not only honors and remembers those in Centre County who were murdered in acts of domestic violence, but also creates a commitment from individuals and our community to actively work to end domestic violence,” said Anne Ard, executive director of Centre Safe.

The exhibit will be at the following YMCA branches: n Moshannon Valley YMCA, through Oct. 3 n State College YMCA, Oct. 3-10 n Bellefonte YMCA, Oct. 10-17 n Penns Valley YMCA, Oct. 17-24

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN GRANT

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women grant will not only help Centre Safe provide legal services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence; the funds will also help the State College-based nonprofit provide increased access to legal services for survivors in more rural areas of Centre County.

“This substantial grant will improve the lives of many victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Bruce D. Brandler said in a statement. “I am very pleased to join with OVW and Centre Safe in empowering survivors and stabilizing families.”

The grant for Centre Safe’s Civil Legal Representation Project will provide services to survivors in civil litigation, including divorce, custody, support, housing and Title IX matters. Centre Safe’s CLRP works to “reduce vulnerability and mitigate the lifelong effects of domestic violence and sexual assault,” with legal services to “help survivors move toward family stability and economic independence,” according to a DOJ news release.

The funding also will support additional travel throughout the county to ensure the services reach rural areas.

“We are so pleased to receive this grant from OVW,” Ard said in a statement. “Legal services are critical for survivors of domestic and sexual violence as they work to build new lives for themselves and their children, and this grant will allow the CLRP to enhance and expand its assistance to those survivors.”

Founded in 1975 as the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Centre Safe works to empower survivors of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking and to eliminate such violence. It offers a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, counseling and advocacy, support groups, legal assistance, a sexual assault response team, child custody exchanges and visitation supervision, help with transitional housing and community education.