By Melissa G. Rodriguez
A community organization started by a group of women back in 1978 was looking for ways to connect during a different timultuous time – and that group took on the name of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC).
It wasn’t too long after the first meeting that the phone started ringing with women asking for help to flee abusive homes. Soon, the Hays County Women’s Center, as it was named, received funding to create one of the first six shelters in the state of Texas.
At the time, domestic violence was rarely spoken about publicly and very few knew where to go for help. The 24-hour HELPline became as important as 911 for those who sought refuge for themselves and their children. HCWC also provided a 24-hour hospital response through HEARTeam to provide advocacy and support for those in need of emergency medical care.
Since then, the name has changed to the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center to fully identify its service area. Today, in addition to services for victims of family violence, HCWC offers a sexual assault and abuse program, children’s advocacy center for child abuse victims, and violence prevention education. Recently, HCWC added dating violence to its mission in recognition that domestic violence often begins much earlier.
HCWC reaches out to all victims of abuse regardless of gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. HCWC recognizes that the issues do not discriminate.
Domestic violence services offered at HCWC vary depending on the specific needs of individuals. The McCoy Family Shelter offers 24-hour emergency shelter for individuals (and their children) leaving a dangerous home and seeking safety. Last year, HCWC provided 7,057 days of shelter to 396 adults and children. The Center offers confidential, secure and free services such as advocacy (referrals to social services), legal advocacy (help with protective orders, criminal justice accompaniment), professional counseling (specialized services for adults and children), support groups, transportation and help accessing basic needs such as clothing, toiletries, food and other necessities.
It’s also important to know that shelter is not only for those who don’t have financial resources, but for those who are in danger, regardless of their resources. Victims often minimize their level of danger hoping for better outcomes and some individuals are unsure if they are in an abusive relationship at all.
HCWC’s largest program is the non-residential services provided through the Counseling and Resource Center where individuals are provided the confidential, secure and free services. Last year, HCWC provided services to 691 adults and 202 child witnesses to domestic violence in the nonresident program.
The specially trained staff helps victims process their trauma and empowers individuals to make decisions about their safety and well-being.
How can people get involved and end domestic violence? It can be as simple as joining HCWC in spreading education and awareness about abuse by following HCWC on social media and sharing educational content by using the handle: @HCWCenter on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram or by subscribing on its email list. Visit www.StopTheHurt.org for more education on abuse issues and resources.
For more information about services, call HCWC at (512) 396-3404 or visit www.hcwc.org
This article is part one of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about domestic violence. One in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.