AMHERST, Mass. – Everywoman’s Center ( EWC ) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been awarded a three-year, $112,000 grant to provide outreach, counseling and sexual assault prevention education in the rural communities of Hampshire County. EWC is partnering with the state Department of Public Health, which was awarded more than $1 million by the federal Office on Violence Against Women ( OVW ) to support sexual and domestic violence prevention and intervention services in rural western Massachusetts communities.
Survivors of sexual and domestic violence in rural Hampshire communities face unique barriers when seeking support and intervention, according to Becky Lockwood, associate director for rape crisis and violence prevention services at EWC. Those barriers include geographic isolation, municipal police departments without full-time staff, lack of public transportation to larger communities where most medical and mental health services are provided, and fear of discussing abuse issues in small communities because “everyone knows everyone else’s business.”
With the funding, said Lockwood, EWC will reach out to survivors of sexual assault who live in rural communities and offer free peer counseling and support groups. A new focus of the project includes meeting with health care providers to develop screening and referral policies for teens and adults who have experienced sexual assault. EWC will also collaborate with area schools, social service agencies and youth groups to provide educational workshops on preventing sexual violence, including preventing the perpetration of child sexual abuse, she said.
The federally designated “rural” communities in Hampshire County to be served by the grant include Amherst, Belchertown, Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Granby, Middlefield, Plainfield, Southampton, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington. Other community organizations that are partnered with the Department of Public Health for the grant include NELCWIT in Franklin County and the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Berkshire County.
The Everywoman’s Center Rape Crisis and Violence Prevention Programs provide rape crisis services for survivors of sexual violence including a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention and counseling, help with the medical and legal systems and support. Rape crisis services and violence prevention programs are available at no cost to the Five College and Hampshire County communities at 888/337-0800 or 413/577-0940 ( TTY ).