The staff and volunteers at the Hays Caldwell Women’s Center are used to dealing with people in crisis — they’ve been doing that for more than 40 years. And they are continuing, even as the COVID-19 crisis has encroached into every area of everyday life.
“We’re all looking for new ways to balance the need for safety in this quickly-changing environment,” Melissa Rodriguez, HCWC’s director of community partnerships, said. “This is especially challenging for those who already find themselves in danger every day, a reality made worse now that were all told to stay home.”
“For weeks we’ve planned and researched diligently to find the best ways to continue our commitment to safety and the quality of service victims of abuse and the community deserve, Executive Director Marla Johnson said. “By sharing resources with statewide and national partners and utilizing the creativity of our dedicated staff members, we have reworked all of our emergency services and found ways to continue services for current clients while maintaining social distancing.”
Part of that, she said, includes increasing digital communication, as most staff are working remotely and volunteers are not onsite.
Emergency services that have remained unaffected include:
- 24-hour HELPLine – victims of abuse may call 24 hours a day for crisis counseling at 512-396-4357(HELP); a trained professional will be taking all calls to talk confidentially, provide safety planning and connect to resources available. During times of high call volume, HCWC may take a number and arrange for another advocate to call back as soon as possible.
· 24-hour hospital response – when a victim goes to the hospital for a sexual assault exam or family violence, HCWC plans to send a trained staff member or volunteer to accompany the victim throughout the process. This has been HCWC’s practice for over 40 years.
· Emergency Forensic Interviews – only law enforcement or child protective services can refer a child for an emergency forensic interview when there are allegations of child abuse; interviews are provided only by one of our trained forensic interviewers at Roxanne’s House, our children’s advocacy center.
· McCoy Emergency Family Shelter – for victims of family violence from Hays or Caldwell County in eminent danger and in need of emergency shelter for themselves and their children, the shelter is open and staffed 24 hours daily.
Though she couldn’t share specifics, Rodriguez said screening procedures are in place for current shelter residents as well as those just coming in.
“Safety protocols are paramount especially right now so we’re following best practices and make changes if directed to do so,” she said. “We’re in regular contact with the local health department and emergency management coordinator so we can be up to date as much as possible. “
HCWC is also ramping up its education and prevention work utilizing digital platforms. Visit the website www.hcwc.org for information on services and resources available to the community and the educational website www.stopthehurt.org for educational content, videos, quizzes, and articles for everyone. Follow HCWC on social media using the handle @HCWCenter – where educational content is shared daily to educate on family violence, sexual assault, dating violence and child abuse, and also to reach out to those who may be in need of services.
“We know this is a hard time for everyone. We know this is especially difficult for victims of abuse and we remain committed to providing support. We’ve all been put in a position that makes us feel unsafe and confused about the future, but there is hope. So many people are working hard to ensure there is a safety net. We remain optimistic that we can all be a part of efforts to build healthy communities in Hays and Caldwell counties,” Johnson said.