Home should be a place for comfort and safety, but for many, home is where they are tortured and abused. According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 20 Americans are victims of domestic violence each minute. The Family Crisis Center of the RGV has been a lifeline for thousands of Rio Grande Valley families since first opening its doors in 1981. The center provides a wide range of services that help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault get all the support they need to get back on their own two feet.
Many of the victims arrive at the center to start a new life with just their purse and the clothes they are wearing. Many have endured years of abuse, violence, threats, and fear. The staff at the Family Crisis Center understands that victims need a wide-range of services to help them heal, keep themselves safe from their abuser, and become independent. The Center’s Executive Director, Cynthia V. Catchings, ensures that both staff and clients work with each other as a team to reach that goal.
The first thing that the Family Crisis Center of the RGV does when a victim arrives at the center is to assign them an advocate that is specialized in either domestic violence or sexual assault. The victim is screened and his or her needs are assessed. Legal advice is available for those that need help obtaining restraining orders, pressing charges, or recovering their personal documents “We accompany them to the court, to the police department, to hearings, and assist them with Texas Legal Aid training,“ says Cynthia V. Catchings, the new Executive Director for the Family Crisis Center of the RGV. The center also has one LPC, a LMSW, four counseling interns, and a BSW intern that provide therapy and case management for victims, as well as their children and family.
The holistic nature of the services that the center provides has helped many families move on from their traumatic experiences to start a new and better life. Such was the case for Betty*, a victim of domestic violence thatescaped from her abuser because she feared for her life. With the support that she received at the center, she was able to get her personal documents in order, obtain legal advice and protective orders, heal from her emotional trauma, get her GED, and start working. She is currently a very successful woman and is working towards completing her college degree.
Although the Family Crisis Center of the RGV offers services to any Rio Grande Valley resident that is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, many people don’t know that the center is available to them. The center allots a great deal of time and funds to getting the word out in the community about the services that they provide. “Last year, we provided a total of 100 presentations in the community with approximately 5,000 people attending those presentations,” says Cynthia V. Catchings. “We are making sure that people know that we are here and that they get the information that they need so that they can assist themselves, their friends, family, or people they know suffering from this problem.” “During the last fiscal year, we provided services to 1223 individuals, 467 of those being children.”
The Family Crisis Center of the RGV is also facing challenges finding the volunteer base that it needs and obtaining funding to continue expanding their services. The center relies heavily on its volunteers to serve as advocates or help in other activities. Volunteer advocates and direct service volunteers are required to complete a 40-hour special training. This often deters people that are interested in helping but have very busy schedules. “We want to emphasize that we don’t just need volunteers to work with the clients in direct service. Those that cannot complete the training can help in fundraisers, events, and outreach.” Donations from the community are also essential for the center to be able to expand their services, purchase items for the families that are staying at the shelter, and educate more people on how to get help. The Center also operates a thrift store in Downtown Harlingen, where all the proceeds are used to benefit the clients. Donations of used items are always welcomed.
Domestic violence and sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender. Even if you’re not a victim yourself, it is important to share information on resources in the community to friends and family members in the case that they ever need help. If you are interested in obtaining more information about the Family Crisis Center of the RGV or would like to volunteer or make a donation, please visit http://www.familycrisisctr.org or call (956) 423-9305 or (956) 423-9306. There is also a 24–hour hotline available for anyone that is in an immediate crisis: 1-866-423-9304.
*Name of the client has been changed to protect confidentiality.