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How Can We Help Empower Victims of Domestic Violence?

Sep 30, 2015 02:39PM ● Published by Hilary Daninhirsch

Grace Coleman
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Crisis Center North, a nonprofit counseling and educational resource center that serves victims of domestic violence, their children, and teens involved in violent dating relationships, has been on the forefront of this issue for the past 37 years. We spoke to CCN’s Executive Director, Grace Coleman, to understand how this organization helps and empowers victims of domestic violence in our area.

North Hills Monthly Magazine (NHMM): What types of services does Crisis Center North provide?
Grace Coleman: CCN provides services to more than 2,000 individuals through a 24-hour hotline; individual and group counseling; case-management; legal advocacy and medical advocacy. An additional 20,000 individuals receive services through community and primary prevention education trainings offered in schools, colleges, businesses, churches, hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

NHMM: What is its mission?
Coleman: The mission of Crisis Center North is to empower victims of domestic violence and cultivate community attitudes and behaviors that break the cycle of violence. CCN achieves this mission by offering immediate and transitional services to victims and their families free of charge; increasing community awareness of the social cost of violent behavior; developing professional expertise for responding to victims; promoting strategies to combat violence in the home, the school and the neighborhood; and networking with other organizations to address the broader needs of victims and break the cycle of violence.

NHMM: How prevalent is domestic violence?
Coleman: On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. One in three female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner every year. Over three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year. One in five women, and one in seven men, has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his or her lifetime. More than 60 percent of domestic violence incidents happen at home, and they are most likely to take place between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

NHMM: Those statistics are pretty sobering. Is anyone immune?
Coleman: Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income or other factors, though women are much more likely than men to be victimized by a current or former partner.

NHMM: Do victims find it difficult to reach out for help?
Coleman: Domestic violence victims often experience stigma. We live in a society that often places responsibility for this crime on the victim. Consider how many times we hear the statement, “Why does she stay?” or “Why does she tolerate that?” Additionally, we have work to do within our communities to provide better systemic responses to domestic violence.

NHMM: What role does Crisis Center North play in helping these victims, or in preventing domestic violence incidents from happening?
Coleman: We provide counseling for adults and youth, legal advocacy and medical advocacy services, and primary prevention programming. For example, medical advocacy at Crisis Center North provides 24-hour support services at area hospitals, as well as during business hours at physicians’ offices. An advocate is available to meet a teen or adult victim of domestic violence on-site to provide support and explain options. And CNN’s primary prevention program aims to prevent injury before it ever occurs.

CCN’s hotline is also available 24 hours a day by calling 412-364-5556 or 1-866-782-0911. CCN makes a commitment to personal service by having live people answer the phone lines. The agency does not use an automated system.

NHMM: Recently, Crisis Center North launched a new loan program called Passport. What can you tell us about that?
Coleman: Financial abuse isn’t always the first consideration when speaking about domestic violence; however, it has long been the reason why someone may stay in or return to an abusive relationship. Abusers have always been controlling when it comes to finances, but advocates find as the financial world changes, tactics that perpetrators use do as well, like setting a victim up for crushing debt, which further complicates her decision or ability to leave the situation.

With the help of project partners, the Passport program offers nontraditional loan services to survivors of domestic violence in order to help them obtain resources that a typical loan might not cover. These are simple interest loans to approved individuals who have been victims of domestic violence, and range from $50 to $500. The money can be used for things like car repair, books or tuition costs, uniforms, etc. Applicants also received financial literacy training and are able to build their credit through loan repayment.

NHMM: How can the community help? Are there opportunities to volunteer or donate money or goods?
Coleman: CCN could not exist without the generous support of our community. There is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities available ranging from answering the hotline to volunteering at special events. For those interested in leadership opportunities, CCN has board opportunities as well as special advisory committees. If you have a talent, we have a way to put that talent to use! Those wishing to donate tangible goods can contact the center at 412-364-6728.

To learn more about upcoming events or the work of Crisis Center North, visit or call 412-364-6728.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Happenings:
  • Sat., Oct. 3: The Purple River Project, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Roberto Clemente Bridge.
  • Fri., Oct. 9: “Hearing the Whispers and Roars: An Evening of Artistic Expression Honoring and Celebrating Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence and Their Path to Recovery.” North Hills Art Center, 7–9 p.m.
  • Wed., Oct. 28: An Evening with Dora E. McQuaid, Poet. Activist. Teacher. Andrew Carnegie Library and Music Hall, Carnegie, PA. 7 p.m., $50.
  • Thurs., Oct. 29: Second Annual Witch’s Ball. Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, 6–9:30 p.m. $25.

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Executive Director Cheryl Tracy, National Aviary





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