Interview by Amanda Hart 

March is Women’s History month. We here at the Free Press decided to celebrate by highlighting women and organizations in our community that are making their own history. Our first interview is with the Houston Area Women’s Center.

What is the Houston Area Women’s Center?
The Houston Area Women’s Center helps individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence in their efforts to move their lives forward. We provide shelter, counseling, and advocacy to support them in building lives free from the effects of violence. We seek social change to end domestic and sexual violence through community awareness and education. Our services are free, confidential and available to everyone. Serving the community since 1977, we operate a state-of-the-art, 24-hour, 7-day a week rape crisis hotline and domestic violence hotline that takes more than 43,000 calls a year. Our shelter is a 120-bed facility, which provides a temporary safe haven to women and their children fleeing abuse and a host of support services to prepare them for a future free of violence. In addition, in 1983 The Houston Area Women’s Center established the Hospital Accompaniment Advocacy program whereby advocates go to the hospital with domestic and sexual violence survivors to advocate on their behalf with hospital staff, provide emotional support, offer crisis counseling and work with survivors to get them the resources that they need to move their lives forward after the devastating effects of violence.

Our Children’s Court Services Program (CCS) assists child victims of crime and/or witnesses to crime, and their families as they participate in the criminal justice system. CCS assigns a court advocate to the child and parent/guardian. The advocate establishes a trusting relationship with the child and caregiver, explains the legal system in terms the child can understand, and serves as a support person in the courtroom when the child testifies. Since family members are often witnesses and therefore not allowed in the courtroom during the trial, the advocate remains with the child when they confront the perpetrator and testify about their experience. The same advocate remains with the child throughout the disposition of the court case.

What currently faces women and children in our community and what can we do to help?
We live in a culture of silence. It’s important to speak up and help spread awareness about the issues of domestic violence and rape that are unfortunately very prevalent in our community. The more we continue to raise our voices collectively, the easier it is for survivors to speak up, know that they are not alone, and that there is help.

Do you offer services for men?
Yes. Our hotlines are open to everyone and we do provide counseling to men. Additionally, our prevention programs reach both men and women. Our statistics show that 46% of the children we serve in our domestic abuse program are boys and 16% of children we serve in our sexual abuse program are boys.

If someone in our community was in need of your services what advice could you give them?
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual abuse please call our hotline. Our domestic hotline number is 713-528-2121 and our rape crisis hotline number is 713-528-7273. It is 24-hours, 7 days a week, in English and Spanish. Survivors are encouraged to call our Hotline for immediate assistance. Our advocates will discuss safety planning, shelter options, counseling opportunities, and available resources, so each survivor can make informed decisions. We offer referrals to other community resources, as well as provide emotional support. Concerned friends and family members are also encouraged to call to have their questions answered and to learn about helpful services for their loved ones.

If people wanted to donate or volunteer how would they go about doing so?
The Houston Area Women’s Center is successful because of both supporters and volunteers. To donate to our organization, simply visit our website at www.hawc.org.

Monetary donations can do the following:

$10 can provide one full day of meals for a child living at our shelter

$25 can help a mom with a week of baby formula

$42 allows a woman to be safe from domestic violence for one night at our emergency shelter

$100 provides one day of everything a mother and child need from food, diapers, and clothing to job counseling and child care

In 1977, the Houston Area Women’s Center was founded by a dedicated group of volunteers! Without our volunteers, we could not deliver on our mission to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence move their lives forward. So, if you want to truly make a difference, consider volunteering at the Houston Area Women’s Center, or gather a group of friends to do a group volunteer project! To find out more about our volunteer opportunities, visit here www.hawc.org/volunteer