Think of your family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and co-workers.
Do you know 100 people in Lycoming County? Which one of those 100 could be the victim of violence?
Last year, the Wise Options program provided services for 1,298 victims of violence in Lycoming County - that is about one in every 100 people in the county.
After numerous 911 calls to the police for incidents of physical and sexual abuse from her husband, "Ann" came to Wise Options seeking assistance in getting a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against her husband.
The staff and volunteers at Wise Options, a program of the YWCA of Northcentral Pennsylvania in Williamsport, worked with Ann to complete all the necessary paperwork and to help her navigate the court system and obtain the PFA.
Wise Options provides free and confidential services to victims of violence - anyone who has experienced, witnessed, or had a family member involved in domestic and sexual violence and other violent crimes.
"Anyone can be a victim of violence. Violence crosses all economic and cultural boundaries," said Deb Shivetts, director of Wise Options. "We serve women and men, adults and children."
Ann's husband violated the PFA several times and was incarcerated. While Ann was relieved for her personal safety, she struggled financially without child support for their daughter while her husband was in jail. Wise Options advocated with the courts to have him put on work release so he could continue working.
"When my husband was released from jail, he used our daughter to keep track of me and to try to convince me to come back to him," Ann said.
"We spent extensive time with Ann developing a safety plan for her and her daughter. With help from the advocates at Wise Options and through counseling, Ann became stronger. She learned to be more independent, self-sufficient and more in control of her life," Shivetts said.
"I was able to get a job and eventually obtain a divorce from my husband. I have moved on with my life and now live a life free from violence," Ann said. "My daughter sees her father, but he no longer has any control of me or my life."
"Wise Options is true to its name," Shivetts added. "We do not tell our service recipients what to do. Instead, we work to empower and educate them on all the options available, encouraging them to make educated decisions."
According to Shivetts, the Wise Options program provides a 24-7 crisis hotline for intervention, information and referral and support; emergency shelter; individual and group counseling for adults and children; civil and criminal court accompaniment; hospital accompaniment; advocacy with the courts and other outside agencies; and screening for Protection From Abuse orders.
"We also provide community awareness programs to schools, community groups, local agencies and professionals, including specially focused violence prevention trainings," Shivetts said. "Presentation topics include healthy touch education to elementary and preschool children; healthy relationships program for middle school to college students; violence in the workplace; and prevention awareness: How to make ours a safer and healthier community."
Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, the local United Way allocated $52,000 for Wise Options this year.
"Lycoming County United Way has always been a great supporter of the Wise Options program and for that we are most appreciative," Shivetts said.
"I wish we could say our community does not need this program," said Scott N. Lowery, executive director for the county United Way. "However, like every other community, there are victims of violence who need support. We are proud to fund Wise Options to not only help take care of victims, but to help fund educational programs that prevent violence in the future. This program is a quality investment in making our community better."
For more information about the Wise Options program of the YWCA, call 322-4637, ext. 117, or visit the website at ywcawilliamsport.org. Victims in crisis may call the hotline at 800-326-8483 or 323-8167.
For more information about Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds more than 40 human service programs like these, visit lcuw.org or call 323-9448.
The YWCA and Lycoming County United Way also are on Facebook.