By: Erin Milbourne
Victim Service Center
Every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, totaling 939 new victims each day. Sexual violence is a crime that impacts everyone; every community, every neighborhood, every culture, every religion, every gender. It is a crime that often leaves victims feeling shameful, isolated, afraid, confused, and unaware of where to turn for help.
Victim Services Center (VSC) of Montgomery County was founded in 1974 as the county’s sole rape crisis center, assisting victims of sexual violence in a variety of ways. Services expanded in 1985 to also include victims of other serious and violent crimes. The services that are provided do not require criminal prosecution of a case or for the crime to be reported to law enforcement. Survivors can seek services in the immediate aftermath or many years later. VSC can serve the direct victim, but can also provide services to any significant other of the direct victim like siblings, spouses, parents, grandparents, boyfriends or girlfriends, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.
The services provided at VSC are all free and confidential. This is a unique benefit that survivors often find relief in, because the financial and or insurance stress is completely cut out. Survivors are eligible for victim advocacy, which helps with navigating reporting options, accompaniments to meetings with law enforcement, and accompaniments to all criminal proceedings. Victim advocates provide the emotional support that survivors need during this re-traumatizing process.
Survivors are also eligible to receive free counseling services by our clinicians, who all have advanced degrees and specialized training. The empowerment approach to clinical treatment VSC uses helps survivors regain a sense of safety and trust in the aftermath of a crime. They are able to provide therapeutic services to children as young as 5 years old all the way up through adulthood. VSC’s clinical treatment includes individual, family, and group therapy options to survivors and their family. Some of the free groups offered at VSC are a monthly homicide support group, a monthly self-care and empowerment group, an adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse group, trauma processing yoga group, sexual assault survivor group, psychoeducation group on sexuality for adult survivors of sexual assault who have intellectual disabilities, and psychoeducation for parents and caregivers of children who are sexually abused. VSC clinicians are also in four Montgomery County School Districts offering mobile counseling to students who are unable to get to the Norristown office location.
VSC provides age-apocopate sexual abuse prevention education that aims to help stop violence before it begins. VSC uses a four-level social-ecological model to better understand violence and the effects of potential prevention strategies as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This model is a comprehensive and systematic approach that stresses the importance of involving all levels of society (individuals, relationships, communities, and institutions) in prevention work. VSC’s prevention strategies are informed and guided by evidence from the CDC which include; changing social norms that do not tolerate harm to others, practicing empathy, empowering individuals and communities to take action against violence, teaching youth communication skills, teaching about safe relationships, including consent education, respecting boundaries, and creating environments that value and promote gender equity.
VSC is in 75% of Montgomery County Public Schools districts and 10 of our higher-education institutions/colleges/universities. Since July 2018, VSC has delivered a total of 505 programs to our schools, preschools, universities/colleges, faith-based organizations, and senior centers.
If you are interested in any of these services or wish to volunteer for VSC, please call our 24-hour hotline at 1-888-521-0983. You can also visit us at www.victimservicescenter.org or follow us on Instagram: vscmontcopa.