Em­pow­er­ing vic­tims to leave abuse

Times-Record - - Front Page - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@stardem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ jbol­l_s­tar­dem.

EASTON — The Mid-Shore Coun­cil on Fam­ily Vi­o­lence is work­ing to bet­ter en­able its clients to leave their abu­sive re­la­tion­ships by eco­nom­i­cally em­pow­er­ing them.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan, MidShore po­lice agen­cies, elected of­fi­cials, com­mu­nity part­ners and pro­fes­sion­als in the field of­fi­cially cut the rib­bon on the Mid-Shore Coun­cil on Fam­ily Vi­o­lence’s Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter in Easton on Thurs­day, Aug. 17.

“Our ad­min­is­tra­tion is work­ing hard to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment of eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery Mary­lan­der and that be­ings with pro­tect­ing and em­pow­er­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble among us,” Ho­gan said to a crowd gath­ered out­side the Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter at 8626 Brooks Drive.

“As all of you here this morn­ing know, vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence eco­nomic chal­lenges, which can have a dev­as­tat­ing and last­ing im­pact on their abil­ity to re­cover from an act of vi­o­lence, leave an abu­sive sit­u­a­tion or achieve fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence, and the abil­ity of vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or as­sault to be­come eco­nom­i­cally se­cure is fun­da­men­tal to that per­son’s safety,” he said.

Jeanne Yea­ger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mid-Shore Coun­cil on Fam­ily Vi­o­lence, said her or­ga­ni­za­tion helps vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault in Tal­bot, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Car­o­line and Dorch­ester coun­ties.

Yea­ger said vic­tims who come to the Mid-Shore Coun­cil of Fam­ily Vi­o­lence face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges re­lated to lim­ited fi­nan­cial re­sources. She said 25 per­cent of its clients have no in­come of their own when they en­ter ser­vices, and Ho­gan said it is es­ti­mated that three out of four vic­tims stay with an abuser longer be­cause of fi­nan­cial is­sues and con­straints.

“To­gether, we must work to em­power these in­di­vid­u­als and to en­sure that they have the tools and the skills they need to break the cy­cle of abuse and vi­o­lence,” Ho­gan said. “This is ex­actly what this em­pow­er­ment vic­tims ser­vices project is do­ing.”

The Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter has been open for seven months and al­ready has seen re­sults, Yea­ger said. She said 75 per­cent of its clients have in­creased their abil­ity to meet ba­sic ex­penses, 62 per­cent have in­creased their stan­dard of liv­ing, 75 per­cent have de­creased their fi­nan­cial worry and the to­tal ben­e­fits of sav­ings to clients has been about $7,400.

“Prior to pro­vid­ing eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment ser­vices, fi­nan­cial bar­ri­ers kept vic­tims in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships and pre­vented them from be­com­ing self­suf­fi­cient,” she said. “But no longer. Through the pro­vi­sion of le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in cases such as debt re­struc­tur­ing, con­sumer law, cus­tody, child sup­port, land­lord-ten­ant, mort­gage, MVA (Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion) and tax is­sues, our clients are over­com­ing these bar­ri­ers.”

The state funded the Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter at $1.4 mil­lion, Ho­gan said. The em­pow­er­ment cen­ter works to ad­dress im­me­di­ate needs, too, like as­sis­tance with ac­cess to food, medicine and safe, se­cure hous­ing, Ho­gan said, adding it also will ad­dress tran­si­tional eco­nomic ser­vices like ca­reer train­ing and find­ing em­ploy­ment.

“The eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment vic­tims ser­vices project is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant be­cause it serves vic­tims who live in ru­ral ar­eas, who as a re­sult face unique chal­lenges to re­cov­ery,” Ho­gan said. “Projects like this one are not only life chang­ing, but they’re ac­tu­ally life sav­ing.”

The Mid-Shore Coun­cil of Fam­ily Vi­o­lence with its Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter is tak­ing a mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach that’s nec­es­sary to pro­vide the kind of com­fort, safety, sup­port and struc­ture that fam­i­lies need to get back on their feet, Sen. Ad­die Eckardt, R37-Mid-Shore, said Thurs­day.

“This cen­ter will do just that, pro­vide that kind of safe en­vi­ron­ment, pro­vide the struc­ture, pro­vide the sup­port, pro­vide the foun­da­tion, be­cause in­di­vid­u­als in or­der to be able to bloom and grow need to be val­i­dated, need to find that they have self-worth again and they have unique skill set abil­ity that sets them to be able to be pro­duc­tive and lov­ing and car­ing and that’s what this team does there and so we’re thank­ful for that,” Eckardt said.

Part­ners with the MidShore Coun­cil on Fam­ily Vi­o­lence also spoke at the rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony.

Tal­bot County Sher­iff Joe Gam­ble said the or­ga­ni­za­tion ed­u­cates his deputies and keeps them up on the lat­est laws and ways they can col­lab­o­rate, and he knows they’re get­ting sound ad­vice for a vic­tim, be­cause “we know their pri­or­ity are vic­tims and vic­tim ser vices.”

The Tal­bot County Cham­ber of Com­merce also part­ners with the or­ga­ni­za­tion, be­cause, as Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Al Sil­ver­stein said, “we all need a good work­force.”

“The gov­er­nor has done a good job of try­ing to move eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for­ward in our state and we can’t do that with­out qual­ity in­di­vid­u­als who are trained, who don’t have the kinds of prob­lems that those who have do­mes­tic abuse un­dergo, that can come to work ev­ery day and be pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens,” Sil­ver­stein said. “This eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment cen­ter is a great trib­ute to the busi­ness com­mu­nity and to the in­di­vid­u­als it will serve.”

PHOTO BY JOSH BOLLINGER

Of­fi­cials cut the rib­bon on the Mid-Shore Coun­cil on Fam­ily Vi­o­lence’s Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter on Thurs­day, Aug. 17. The cen­ter will help vic­tims of abuse get back on their feet, eco­nom­i­cally.

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