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Shelter continues to expand services

April 26, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - By the mid-1970s, citizens and community leaders everywhere were beginning to show concern about the lack of services available to victims of rape and spousal abuse.

The first rape crisis centers and emergency shelters for abused women and their children began to show up in communities, mostly run by volunteers who set up hotlines and crisis intervention centers.

In 1976, the Chambersburg Area Rape Crisis Center opened with six volunteers who helped 16 victims that year. That center has since evolved into WIN Victim Services, Inc., a multi-service, private, non-profit corporation with 15 full-time staffers and 30 volunteers and a 10-member board of directors, said Barbara Channing, 45, executive director of the agency.

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WIN, for Women in Need, runs a 16-bed emergency shelter for victims of sexual and physical abuse, battered spouses and their children.

Agency staffers offer group and individual counseling, set up support groups for victims, meet with victims at hospital emergency rooms and interview them in their homes.

They also train police officers how to handle victims of sexual and domestic abuse.

The agency runs on an annual budget of about $500,000, Channing said. Most of it comes from federal and state grants, she said.

This year, because of a $200,000 federal grant secured by Channing, WIN will have nearly $100,000 more to expand its services. The rest of the grant will be shared equally by the Franklin County District Attorney's office for its domestic violence program and local police departments for training in domestic violence and sexual assault cases, Channing said.

The grant will enable WIN to expand its services in Fulton County to full time, add a community response coordinator to establish a family violence task force, and add legal and domestic violence advocates to its staff, bringing the number of full-time employees to 20, Channing said.

WIN's 1996 Annual Report showed that the agency served 1,082 victims of domestic violence in Franklin County and 86 in Fulton County. There were nearly 3,000 hotline calls in both counties, an increase of 100 over the previous year.

The emergency shelter serves about 200 clients a year. Between 1979, when it opened, and the end of 1996, the shelter served 3,919 women and children.

WIN legal and victim advocates help abuse victims through the legal system. They go with police to the scene of the abuse, assist victims in getting court-ordered protection from abuse orders and stay with them through trials and other court appearances.

WIN staffers are also active in community education and prevention programs on sexual assault and domestic violence through presentations to community groups and the schools.

Alecha Cauffman and Karen Barry are WIN's community education specialists.

They spend most of their days in Franklin County schools teaching students about sexual and physical abuse through programs tailored to children of kindergarten age up to high school seniors. While welcomed in most schools, some schools have banned the programs saying they are too controversial.

"It's frightening to some people if we discuss these things," said Barry. "We teach children how to recognize dangerous situations, about danger from strangers and relatives, about incest. We tell them to be assertive at getting away from bad situations and to tell a trusted adult," she said.

Cauffman said the preventive educational programs, some of which use videos or role-playing by actors, are nationally recognized and are proven to be effective in teaching children how to protect themselves.

"They deal with the issues head on," Barry said. "We have to put our fears aside and protect our children. They are ready to hear these things. Children are capable of protecting themselves."

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