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Crime victims' rights recognized

April 21, 2012
By KIM LOCCISANO - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

Home. It is supposed to be where the heart is, but when domestic violence of any kind is in the mix, it can become the place where hate and harm thrive.

For victims of domestic violence and other forms of domestic abuse, spending time at home with family is often the last thing they want to do. It can also be one of the most dangerous things for a person in an abusive relationship to do, as it may well be where they are the most vulnerable to abusive behaviors or violence.

Home is the place most Americans think of when in need of a safe haven from the chaos of everyday life.

Heading home should not bring on an almost automatic sense of overwhelming dread or fear, but when an abusive environment exists, it can be difficult for the general public to understand why a victim does not just simply walk away.

"When you have been in an abusive relationship, you are often completely isolated from the people who had been your normal group of friends and even family," offered Kay Hawkenberry, head of Tri-County Help Center's domestic violence shelter known as Peg's House.

Hawkenberry has been working with victims of domestic violence for more than 30 years and in that time has connected with more than 3,000 clients on a personal basis.

Fact Box

National Crime Victims' Rights Week 2012: April 22-28

Peg's House-an emergency domestic violence safe home.

The following number is answered by a person on a 24-7 basis: 740-695-5441 or 1-800-695-1639

Information on the web is available at:

"The average person would not believe what is going on just down the street, no matter where they live. Domestic abuse and violence are everywhere," Hawkenberry offered.

Peg's House is a resource many communities do not have.

Through its doors many victims of domestic violence and abuse have entered, only to walk out a few weeks or months later as stronger, healthier, happier and more successful and empowered people, offered Hawkenberry.

They are no longer someone's victim, but have become a survivor.

Not everyone makes it out of the cycle of violence and abuse, note experts.

In recent years the crime of stalking has been recognized nationwide as an epidemic which too easily brings long-term disruption, destruction and even death to the life of its victims.

Peg's House, is not only a shelter for abused women, but is also open to those being accompanied by their children as they make their way to a more positive life and lifestyle with the help of resources and services coordinated through Tri-County Help Center.

Peg's House assistant Erin, a wife and mother, successfully fought her way through several years of being stalked by a person she knew.

The effects of that experience today provide her with the ability to truly understand the fears, concerns and struggles victims of this type of highly personalized assault can face.

Victims of domestic violence from Belmont, Harrison or Monroe counties who are in need of emergency housing and other related services can easily find themselves within the safety of what is literally a safe, secure, homelike environment where they can begin healing and regaining the strength to make positive decisions about their personal future as personal levels of self respect, self assurance, and self worth and the like begin getting reestablished.

Walking away from an abusive relationship or environment of any kind takes courage, but it can be done, and life can get better.

The first step in changing a person's individual reality when it comes to being a victim of domestic abuse or violence is seeing it for exactly what it is: a crime.

The next steps include becoming educated about what options are available to you and then starting to decide what your individual plan of action will be.

One of the biggest hurdles an abuse victim can face, once they have decided to leave, is determining where to go and how they will be able to afford even life's most basic requirements of food and shelter while trying to heal and to move.

This is where Peg's House, a long established community-based resource, can make a tremendous difference in how successful an abuse victim will be when it comes to walking a better path through each new day toward a new and bright future - one not ruled by fear imposed on them by someone they, at some point, likely believed had cared deeply for them or had even loved them.

Residents of Belmont, Monroe and Harrison Counties are among the most fortunate in this region, as a well-established program can provide many services and connections for clients including: an emergency basis safe home environment, food, personal care products, transportation, housing assistance, domestic violence services, verbal and mental abuse advocacy, legal and court advocacy, rape and sexual abuse advocacy, counseling, and support to help clients reach decisions and goals which are their own.

Peg's House is an emergency domestic violence safe home for residents of Belmont, Harrison and Monroe Counties who find themselves in need of a place to go - to live for a time - other than their own household.

The crimes of domestic violence, of stalking, and actions of physical and mental abuse are almost always rooted in issues of control. Specifically, they are driven by a person's desire to get and keep a high level of control over another person.

Information and knowledge are two of the most powerful weapons advocates can help make available to victims of these crimes when they decide the time is right for them to make a substantial change for the better, offered Hawkenberry.

Peg's House is not just a safe house - it is a safe home. It is a place to begin a new life as a whole person, not a victim.

An estimated four million American women are injured or killed each year as a consequence of domestic violence. A study done by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, showed domestic abuse may be responsible for more injuries to women than minor automobile accidents, rapes, and muggings combined.

No one wants to be the victim of a crime. It's not something you put into your schedule book, but crimes do happen, and those harmed by such actions are often quickly labeled "victims."

No one wants to be a victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is never ok.

Domestic violence is a crime.

No one wants to be the victim of a stalker, but it happens.

Stalking is a crime.

The week of April 22-28 is recognized as National Crime Victim's Week.



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